During early childhood, the relationship with the mother, or with any caregiver, is the basis of the child’s well-being in the short and long term. Early childhood relationship and attachment is mediated mainly through non-verbal channels (voice, gaze) and, in particular, by touch (Harlow, 1958; Field, 2014). The fact of entering into a relationship with the newborn through skin-skin contact has not always found the necessary attention, so much so that for some decades of the last century, even the simple picking up was associated with pampering the child through cuddling massage therapy in Mooresville, NC.
Today we know, however, that physical contact at an early age has very profound and important effects:
positively correlates with the physical health and cognitive development of infants in the short and long term
it is a fundamental communication channel between the mother and the child
it is a means of establishing a secure attachment.
General goals of neonatal massage
The infant massage techniques that have developed in Italy and around the world have several objectives:
develop awareness of his own body in the child : the massage, by stimulating different parts of the body, leads the newborn to have different sensations deriving from being touched by the mother and this allows him to begin to distinguish the body areas from which these sensations derive and to recognize them. Distinguishing and knowing how to describe one’s bodily sensations is one of the fundamental bases of emotional intelligence.
Develop the mother-baby relationship . It has been noted that picking up, touching and stroking the newborn baby increases the mother’s satisfaction with her child and improves the quality and quantity of time she spends with him. In addition, more “touched” babies smile more and cry less, becoming more attuned to the mother and developing a more secure attachment (Field, 2014).
Intervening on postpartum depression : depressed mothers who participate in an infant massage course improve their relational skills with the child, learning to look at him, talk to him, touch him.
During the training, at each meeting , mothers are taught different ways of massaging and touching their babies based on the emotions they want to evoke : caressing, touching, massaging, kissing, tickling are some of the ways of touching which, as Hertenstein suggests ( 2006), express emotions. Furthermore, for an integrated emotional expression on all levels, at each meeting mothers are also invited to move and modulate their voice with their children: in the calm session, mothers are suggested to move slowly, squinting their eyes, to use a whispered voice; in a joyful session, with cheerful and well-rhythmic background music, mothers are invited to dance with their little ones and so on.