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Oregon Family Magazine

The Power of Touch

01/31/2022 ● By Parenting Now
A close, nurturing, and responsive relationship is the single most important factor affecting our children’s well-being. Nurturing touch is a part of that. Through your gentle stroke on their cheek or a warm embrace, your child learns about comfort, safety, security, and love. All babies need touch to survive and thrive, and the use of infant massage or gentle touch is a wonderful way to sooth your baby and nurture your bond. 

Research has found that infant massage and gentle touch can:

* Improve baby’s blood flow

* Relax tense muscles

• Stimulate brain development

• Improve baby’s sleep (and yours!)

• Lower baby’s stress hormones

Best of all, it encourages a connection between you and your baby!

How to give baby a massage

Infant massage can help soothe and relax your baby, giving them a sense of comfort and security. When and how often you want to massage your baby is up to you. 

Parenting Now Program Manager Meredith Tufts suggests building a massage into your family's routine and rituals. You could add a massage before bedtime or when you reconnect with your baby at the end of the work day—this can be especially nice when a parent goes back to work or has another change that shifts how much they are able to spend connecting with their infant, says Tufts. 

Find a quiet, calm, and warm massage area. Lay your baby on her back, in front of you or on your lap. You can start by putting oil or lotion on your hands, and holding them up in front of your baby. After a few times of doing this, your baby will learn what comes next, and they can give consent by smiling or wiggling in anticipation, or decline consent for touch by looking away, fussing, or crying.

For an infant massage, you’ll want to use a slow and controlled gentle touch. You could start by rubbing your baby’s belly in a circular motion, then move onto the legs and arms. If baby is still content, move them onto their belly and lightly massage their back, neck, and shoulders.

Be receptive to your baby’s physical and emotional cues, and be ready to adapt to them if needed. If your baby turns away or seems unhappy, try again another time.

A massage is only one form of gentle, loving touch. Your baby benefits enormously from holding, patting, and gentle stroking, too. ”The power of gentle touch to help a child relax promotes healthy attachment, which is so important for development,” says Tufts. “Touch helps parents as well! When we connect with our babies, we support the co-regulation that helps us feel calm, safe, and emotionally well, too.” 

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