The Right Touch
One of the most excitigng areas of research is the connection between touch and growth. Touched babies thrive and here’s why.
Touch Stimulates Growth Promoting Substances
There seems to be a biological connections between stroking, massaging, and grooming infants and their growth. Touch stimulates growth promoting hormones and increases the enzymes that make the cells of the vital organs more responsive to the growth promoting effects of these hormones. For example, premature infants in a “grower nursery,” where they can gain needed weight, showed 47 percent more weight gain when they received extra touch.
Animal researchers have recognized the connection between a mother animal’s licking her offspring and how well her babies grow. When newborn pups were deprived of their mother’s frequent licking (equivalent to an infant massage), the level of growth hormone decreased, and the pups stopped growing. Even injecting growth hormone into the untouched pups would not cause them to grow. Only when the mother animals touching and licking were restarted did the pups resume their growth.
Touch Promotes Brain Growth
Not only is touch good for the body, it is good for the mind. Studies show that newborns receiving extra touch display enhanced neurological development. Why this smart connection? Researchers believe that touch promotes the growth of myelin, the insulating material around the nerves that make nerve impulses travel faster.
Touch Improves Digestion
Babies receiving extra touch show enhanced secretion of digestive hormones. It seems that touch makes the babies’ digestive system more efficient. Babies with colic caused by irritable colon syndrome may have less trouble in the colon when massaged frequently.
Touch Improves Behaviour
Research shows babies receiving extra touch become more organized. They sleep better at night, fuss less during the day and relate better to caregivers’ interactions.
Touch Promotes Baby's Self Esteem
Being on the receiving end of a loving hands helps babies develop a feel for their body parts by learning which areas of the body are most sensitive and which need relaxing. Being touched gives value to a person, like an adult feeling “touched” by the remarks of a friend.
Touch helps parents. A daily massage helps you to get in touch with your whole baby, to read their body language, and to learn their cues. Giving your baby the right touch is just one more step up the ladder of learning about your baby.
Information provided by DONA International Postpartum Doula Manual 2017