An ‘unexpected admission’ from a college daughter during a routine call: “Mom, the girls and I were talking last night….we miss our Moms!”
A visit to said daughter one week later results in an unexpected request: “Mom can you give us all a hug? We all need a Mom hug!” Overjoyed Mom obliges.
Miles, even states, separate these girls from the familiar security of home and mother. The girls expand on their “Mom” converdation: “Yeah, we all decided that last year, as freshmen, everything was so new and exciting. We didn’t really have time to miss home too much. But now, with schoolwork getting routine and endless….we miss our Moms.” These twenty year olds miss the touch of their mothers. It is a power that cannot be completely explained but the force is irreplaceable.
In March 2010, Australian Mother Kate Ogg, gave birth to twins prematurely. After working on the baby boy who weighed only two pounds, doctors gave up hope and declared him dead. Kate and husband David were given the child to say their goodbyes. “I unwrapped Jamie from his blanket; took my gown off and arranged him on my chest with his head lying over my heart and held him. We called him by his name and told him about his sister. We told him the things we want to do with him throughout his life. Jamie occasionally gasped for air, which doctors said was a reflex action. Then I felt him move, as if he were startled. He started gasping more regularly. I gave Jamie some breast milk on my finger; he took it and began regular breathing.”
(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1306283/Miracle-premature-baby-declared-dead-doctors-revived-mothers-touch.html, accessed March 2010) Jamie survived and is now thriving because of the touch of his mother.
The very technique that revived Jamie’s life is known as 'kangaroo care,' named after kangaroos who hold their young in a pouch next to their bodies, allowing the mother to act as a human incubator to keep babies warm, stimulated, and fed. Pre-term and low birth-weight babies treated with the skin-to-skin method are known to have lower infection rates, less severe illness, improved sleep patterns, and are at reduced risk of hypothermia. Hospitals are now using this technique in Neonatal Units and recommending it for older babies, as well. Not only does it soothe infants but it also boosts their development in other ways. Dr. Tiffany Field, Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, states, "Our research suggests that touch is as important to infants and children as eating and sleeping. Touch triggers physiological changes that help infants and children grow and develop. For example, massage can stimulate nerves in the brain which facilitate food absorption resulting in faster weight gain. It also lowers levels of stress hormones resulting in improved immune function. Touch is literally a direct way of tapping into your child's subconscious and giving him a strong message of love and acceptance." (http://all4women.co.za/parenting-articles/mothers-touch.html, accessed March 2010)
Humans are born with a great need for touch. Studies conducted in orphanages over the past 50+ years have taught that children deprived of human touch lose weight, become ill, and even die. Children instinctively reach out for skin to skin contact when they need it. Thus the inevitable crying babies who calm when a familiar person picks them up. The need is also seen in the outstretched arms of a toddler wanting to be held or the school age child running from the bus to his mother’s embrace. This human need does not end in childhood; airports abound with hugs and kisses after a time of separation. Arms around shoulders, hand holding, and sitting closely together are seen daily. Touch is a human sense that man can not live without.
Touch is one of the most basic forms of communication. Author Desmond Morris says, "Something special happens when two people touch each other physically, whether it be a handshake, a pat on the back, or a slap on the face." (http://www.syncrat.com/5jh, accessed March 2010) Touch is the first method by which infants become familiar with the world. It is communication between mother and baby. It tells the infant, it is okay, this is the person I know and trust. It sends messages of love, closeness, safety, security, and stableness. Touch, for an infant, is vital in establishing attachment-bonding to his primary caretaker. Mother-Infant bonding in the first few months of life is critical for children to develop normally. Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D, in her article on human touch, says, “In the absence of bonding and healthy attachment with an adult, a child may develop life-long emotional disturbances, becoming withdrawn, disinterested, depressed, cold, hateful, or angry forever. A child who is emotionally neglected in the first few years may suffer pronounced physical consequences such as, being physically small, underweight, sickly, and undernourished. Such a child may survive but not thrive.” (http://www.mindpub.com/art173.htm, accessed March 2010)
KidsHealth.org writes, “To babies, touch = love and fully loved babies develop healthy brains. During the critical period of child development following birth the infant brain is undergoing a massive growth of neural connections. Synaptic connections in the cortex continue to proliferate for about two years, when they peak. During this period one of the most crucial things to survival and healthy child development is touch.” (http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/endocrine/failure_thrive.html#, accessed March 2010)
Tiffany Field, PhD notes, “In studying different cultures, the amount of touching that occurs is highly variable, but, among the lowest was the United States.” (http://www.baby.com/jjpi/for-professionals/Touch-and-Massage-in-Early-Child-Development.pdf, accessed March 2010) Americans, unlike other cultures, are notorious for placing infants in carriers; car, stroller, swing, seat. American children have less skin to skin contact, than say, the African nation where mothers carry infants against their skin almost all the time. Studies have shown children who are carried against their mother’s bodies cry less: being more content and calm. Experts espouse slings and packs carrying children next to the caregiver’s body. It naturally promotes touching. It is a shame that deviant behavior has robbed what nature meant to be natural and wholesome. It is right to be cautious and wise to think before acting, but humans, especially children, depend on the touch of those who love and care for them. It is not only a necessary part of life but a fundamental means of health.
There is nothing more natural on earth than a mother’s touch. Nothing can replace a mother’s hug, kiss, back rub, etc. Liberally dispense touch to your children. Teach them the kind of touching that brings health and wholeness to life. Massage those babies. Cuddle those toddlers. Snuggle with those darlings. Hold hands with those sweet ones. Caress those sugar pies. Their lives depend on it and the power lies within mother’s hands.
A Guide to Infant Massage
How wonderful to get in touch with your baby through massage! Massage gives the two of you special loving time together and enhances a baby’s growth and development. The following 15 minute massage is used by Dr. Field in her work with premature infants.
A warm, quiet room creates the perfect environment for baby massage. Rub your hands together before you begin to make them warm for baby’s skin. A relaxingly, scented baby oil, such as lavender, removes friction between your hands and baby’s skin to make the massage especially soothing. Soft background music may help set an even more relaxing tone for this experience.
Start with baby lying on his stomach. Gently rub your hands back and forth six times on each of the following areas for about 1 minute in each area:
1. From the top of baby’s head to his neck
2. From his neck across his shoulders
3. From his upper back to his waist
4. From his thigh to his foot and back to his thigh, on each leg
5. From his shoulder to his hand and back to his shoulder, on each arm
Now turn baby over onto his back so that he is facing you. Move each of his arms gently, flexing and then straightening. Then move each of his legs. Exercise each arm and each leg in this way, as if he were pedaling a tiny bicycle, for a total of 5 minutes. To finish baby’s massage turn him back on his stomach and repeat the first sequence.
Throughout the massage remember to be sensitive and responsive to baby. Learn to recognize when baby is not interested or has had enough. Baby may signal he is finished with this experience by:
? turning his head away
? wrinkling his forehead
? sucking in his cheeks
Fussing and crying are very definite ways of saying, “I’m tired.” As you and baby work together you will gradually find a routine that works best for both of you. All of your love and attention being focused baby will lead to truly being “in touch” with one another.
(http://www.baby.com/jjpi/infant-massage/The-Importance-of-Touch.pdf, accessed March 2011)
On the Fredericksburg Homefront
Fredericksburg Parent and Family Magazine’s own Lisa Arthur is the mother of now 12 year old identical twin boys. Matthew and Mitchell were born two months prematurely weighing only 4 pounds and 2 pounds respectively. Mitchell, at 2 pounds, was given little chance of survival but the introduction of Kangaroo Care, as mentioned in this article, gave Mitchell the warmth his body needed. Instead of his little body burning calories to stay warm, Mom and Dad did that for him with skin to skin contact. Mitchell’s body used those calories more wisely….to grow! Kangaroo care shortened the NICU stay to three weeks and Mitchell came home with Mom weighing 3 pounds 7 ounces. The boys are now thriving sixth graders and very active Boy Scouts.