The Power of Touch – Infant Massage for newborns and babies
One of the core principles of practice of the Midwifery Model of Care practiced at The Sanctum is Skin-to-Skin Contact between mother and baby as soon as the baby is born. Even after years of research scientists are only now beginning to uncover the proverbial “tip of the iceberg” as to the complex psycho-somatic messages that simple touch, accompanied by soothing voice of mother or father conveys to the newborn or the infant baby.
The act of touching your baby, caressing her, cooing softly to her creates protected space around her and you, that is only belongs to you and your baby, which for a moment is far removed from the humdrum of daily life and the stress accompanied with it. Research is showing that babies who are regularly caressed, touched lovingly by their parents tend to be calmer, sleep better and even show better brain development.
At our Natural Birth Center, The Sanctum every mother, without exception, has skin-to-skin contact with her baby as soon as she is born. Even in the rare case of a medically required c-section, as soon as the baby is brought out of the mother she is put on mother’s chest even while suturing is bring done. We see before our eyes the wonder of miracle that touch, eye contact between mother and her newborn and response of baby to her mother’s voice does to both.
Apart from the obvious electrifying emotion we have seen that the mother’s chest is probably the best Thermo-regulator for both her and her baby. And wonderfully, both mother and baby need each other in that precise moment because of the stress that both have gone through. The mother, through the intense labor process experience variety of emotions, changes in physical nature of her body including temperature swings and others. While our team of midwives and doulas are on hand at every moment of her labor, we recognize that this is nature’s incredible way of helping the mother deal with the process of childbirth. At the same moment, the baby too is passing through a constricted space, finding its way though crevices and passages in the birth canal, helped by the contractions of the uterus muscle, it too experiences a range of physical stress because of the restrictive environment. And when finally the baby is born into the vast outside world, it experiences changes that are enormous. Therefore laying on the protective chest of her mother assures baby that it is all right – the new environment will be as safe and secure as the old one inside her mother’s womb. And how so? As the mother coos to her baby and has her on her chest, as the baby experiences a rise in temperature, the mother’s chest simultaneously experiences fall in temperature. As bay’s temperature falls, mother’s temperature rises to keep the mother-baby unit stable. That is why we midwives consider MOTHER-BABY as a single unit. And the baby on her mother’s chest gets to listen to the same familiar heartbeat of her mother as she has been hearing from the time her sense of hearing started to function in the womb.
For the mother too, the act of caressing, touching her baby brings about lowering of stress as a result of increased production of Oxytocin, considered to be the “love hormone”. This hormone is recognized to be the single most important hormone throughout pregnancy, birth, and post partum. We have seen moms who have had very long, stressful labors immediately calm down and experience dramatic shift in mood the moment they have their baby on their chest and when they start to touch her and talk to her. And regular skin to skin contact with her baby, even for years after birth has been found to be positive for both mother and baby.
We recommend to all our parents to enroll in our Infant Massage Training as a means to connect with their babies in a way that is beneficial to both mother/father and the baby. Imagine a calm, quiet environment, with only you and your baby, eye-to-contact, soft whispering and cooing to your baby who responds back, you gently massaging your baby – it is guaranteed to bring a salubrious effect to you after a stressful day and a calming effect to your baby who will sleep with the memory of this wonderful moment with her mother or father. Infant massage is not only for moms – dads too can do it and it is our recommendation that they should too do it. After all, the baby has been listening to dads voices too while in the womb!