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Infant Mental Health

11 Feb 2019

Touch Base-How baby massage and nurturing touch is essential for all babies and can protect your child from mental health issues.

Touching Base-How baby massage and nurturing touch is essential for all babies and can protect your child from mental health issues.

“Infant mental health- Is that a thing now?”

I was talking to someone the other day and they said, “I have never heard of infant mental health. Child and adult, yes but infant, no” I was shocked because good mental health begins in infancy in our first interactions and experiences.

The first 1001 days of life are critical to enrich babies brains and lives with nourishing and nurturing activities that help grow their emotional intelligence, resilience and emotional regulation. Babies are born into the world completely dependent on us for their mental health. In our actions and the care we give babies, we define their early experiences. It is through the love that they receive from us as parents that they grow and develop to know empathy, kindness and compassion as well as learning about social interaction.

From the moment I went to a baby massage class with my daughter, I knew that baby massage was so much more than a baby class. I was immediately struck by the power of touch, of tuning in and learning from my daughter. Touch and massage made time slow down. I started to notice so much more about how my daughter was “talking” to me, what she was saying and what she wanted. I became more present and attuned to her needs. I switched off my brain and the books and the theory of what I “should” be doing and, instead, felt from the heart what was at the essence of our relationship; pure unconditional love. It was a powerful moment. In the disconnect from my mind, my heart fully opened and I fell completely in love, not only with my daughter but with myself as a mother.

I read all I could on the power of touch and then discovered the world of neuroscience, child development and attachment theory. So much of my life and the world around me made sense. We are all a product of the environment in which we are grown. The love we receive as a child effects our ability to love ourselves and others. I felt like I had discovered a secret which could change the world. I decided in all my classes and in my training (which came later on) that I would share this very important message to as many parents and babies as I could. After meeting a wonderful teacher in Italy, Cristina, and discussing how love is the foundation of compassion and empathy, I adopted the mantra “Love creates love” for all of Blossom & Berry’s work. I am now a self confessed neuroscience geek and I have studied infant mental health at the University of Warwick. It underpins all I do and I believe that awareness of infant mental health and the importance of nurturing touch and physical contact can make a huge difference in the world. We are becoming more and more disconnected and as human beings we crave being social and physical interaction. We need to stop and think about the lessons we are teaching our children especially with children’s mental health on the rise.

So how does baby massage help nurture your baby’s mental health?

So let’s keep it simple…..

  1. Touch produces oxytocin which calms and relaxes the body and helps us “feel” what we describe as love. If you want your baby to feel loved, keep connected and keep in touch.
  2. Being present and attuned- Babies brains are developing at 1 million connections a second. When you practise baby massage, you practise what is called “serve and return” which encourages social interaction and helps to reassure babies and wire important pathways for emotional regulation. 
  3. You listen-Babies can be difficult to understand but baby massage enables you to watch and learn and respond which helps babies know they are cared for and supported. 
  4. You help to regulate your baby’s emotional state. Your arms and touch produces feel good hormones that bring down stress levels in your baby’s body. You can help create the bridge between stress and relaxation for your baby.
  5. You empower your baby-In baby massage we never massage a baby that is crying or communicating that they do not want a massage. When your baby feels heard and seen and validated, he/she knows that she is important and respected.
  6. It builds trust-Feeling connected and knowing you are heard helps to build trust which can help your baby to relax. 

Being able to regulate the body and mind from a stress to a relaxed state is vital for babies physical and mental health. It helps us cope with life and form loving relationships. At all ages, touch communicates love and connection and these are the cornerstones of mental health. There is a huge amount of power in your hands to show your baby he is loved and to build confidence and independence.

This is a fascinating video on the science of neglect by the Harvard Centre for the developing child. I feel so much of this information is over looked so please take some time to watch. It might just change your perspective of how you interact with your baby or child and why you are so important. I have seen the effects of neglect on babies in my world in orphanages in Malawi. It’s time to treat all babies with the love and respect they deserve.

Much love

Gayle

PS Our training covers and promotes infant mental health. Baby massage is a way to put this knowledge into practice. If you would like to join our movement and train with us, visit the website https://www.blossomandberry.com