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Infant Massage: Communicating Love Through Touch

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Infant Massage: Communicating Love Through Touch

Before birth, a baby is perfectly at home in a mother's body. The warm, watery temperature-controlled world of the uterus combined with the reassuring rhythm of the mother's heartbeat is an environment in which the baby thrives. After twenty weeks gestation, babies are sensitive to movement, light and sound. They are aware of the gentle caressing they receive when their mother's belly is rubbed or stroked. As observed in many expectant parents, massaging the mother's belly appears to be innate, and perhaps, unconscious.

The instinctive stroking, along with talking to the fetus as it is massaged has been shown to be beneficial to both parents and their baby. Massaging and talking to the baby are ways parents express their growing bond. And fetuses reportedly respond with recognition to the sound of their parents' voices by moving their legs, arms and head. These early, loving interactions encourage feelings of closeness between parents and their unborn baby.

Birth floods the baby with new sensations and requires him to adjust in numerous ways. Many parents instinctively begin to gently touch and stroke their newborn as they gaze into his eyes for the first time. Nurturing touch is a way for parents to help ease the "transition from the womb to the world" for their new baby (Montagu 1986). Massage can be a wonderful extension of the parents' natural impulse to communicate love and concern. And touch is the primary way newborn babies encounter their caregivers and experience their environment.


In the past twenty years there has been a dramatic increase in research on the benefits of touch in infancy as well as the role of nurturing touch as a factor in enhancing parent-infant attachment security.

Early scientific research on the relationship between touch and healthy...