Contact Counts: 3 Benefits of Baby Massage

Massage of footsI have been doing pregnancy massage and postnatal massage in Berkley and Oakland as part of my holistic healing work for several years now. But recently, I decided to branch out from simply working with adults to expand my maternity care healing services. When, a little more than a year ago, I signed up for a baby massage course, I was surprised to find that massaging babies was way more than just squeezing their cute little baby fat rolls and rubbing baby oil on their tiny precious bodies.

As a therapeutic body worker, I have always been very aware of the impact that healing touch has on our nervous systems, connective tissue, muscles, mental states and how it satisfies a part of our deep human need to feel cared for and loved. But I was inspired in a new and profound way when I learned about the impact that loving touch has on babies and their fundamental development. Below are just a few examples and fabulous reasons to start massaging your little ones today.

Awakening Love
When mothers touch their infants in a soothing and comforting way, the love hormone oxytocin is released in both of them, thus awakening the biologic capacity to bond. It also lowers cortisol levels which increases immunity and supports the optimal physiological development of the baby.

Shaping the Brain
Babies’ nervous systems are developing and highly adaptive. Each tactile, sensory and relational experience provides the stimuli for specific neural pathways to develop and to create healthy or unhealthy ‘brain templates’. As a result of this, caring, loving and responsive touch is essential for the healthy organization of their nervous systems.

Affirming Secure Attachment
‘Secure attachment’ is the hip term in psychotherapy circles these days. It seems to be your stamped visa on the way to psychological health and an ability to have lasting healthy loving relationships. There are many definitions of this term. But it kind of just means that your mother really loved you and was attuned to your cues and needs when you were little. In this way, hugs, cuddles, smiles, loving baby massages (and all the nurturing ways in which the cuteness of a baby inspires most healthy people to react) are all translated in the baby’s brain into patterned neural activity which positively influences its development.

There is so much more to be said about the significance of mindful, loving touch and its importance, especially with infants. It is important at any age. But I am excited to have this new insight about how the types of touch we receive, especially at an early age, play such an essential role in the architecture of our brains and therefore our lives.

Winter Wonder: 8 Steps to Holiday Recovery

Replenishing after winter holidays

Vacations can be exhausting! Many of us often feel depleted after the holidays with family and friends. And while January is historically the month for New Year’s resolutions and fresh starts, many people feel like they need a vacation from their vacation.

Have you ever needed to go on retreat after the madness of the holidays? 

In Easter medicine it is said that staying attuned to the energy of the seasons is an important key to good health. Winter is the time to take it easy, eat warm foods, be contemplative, and relish stillness by slowing down. Even though right now in California it feels like summer, the energy of winter is dark, cold, inward and quiet. It’s the period of gestation for our dormant life energy. This is why trees lose their leaves and save their life-force to come bursting through in spring, animals hibernate or sleep more, and we humans take time off from work to presumably to slow down and have time to be with ourselves and loved ones.

But realistically, what do we do instead? Shop, shop and shop some more. Party, party – eating and drinking till our bellies are bursting. We fly, drive and go all over the place to see family and friends who often trigger all kinds of reactions in us which can be tiring and depleting. It seems clear that among many other things, culturally, we are vastly distant from being in tune with the energetic qualities of winter.

Right now, when our vitality, passion, life energy and enthusiasm are supposed to be brewing to be fully expressed in the spring- like the trees ready to bloom – instead, we are running around exhausting ourselves! So, in what remains of this season (and hopefully for the rest of the year) I invite you to cultivate slowness and notice what nourishes your body mind and spirit.

By making the intention to stay attuned to the energy of the seasons as the year unfolds, right now we can take full advantage of the quietude and stillness of winter. Here are some ideas for replenishing and attuning:

1. Notice Nature. Go for walks outside and notice the changes in the light and the plants.

2. Shop Seasonally. Go to the local San Francisco farmers markets and buy what is growing seasonally.

3. Cultivate Community. Cook something yummy and nourishing with what you bought, having your friends over to share the goodness.

4. Create Coziness. Slow down, take a candle-lit bath with essential oils, be still and relax.

5. Trade Touch. Trade massage with your close friend or lover, or call your favorite healing bodywork massage therapist to make an appointment.

6. Take Time. Sit by the fire with your favorite book while sipping tea or hot chocolate.

7. Commit to Contemplation. Write in your journal about what’s up in your inner realms.

8. Move Mindfully. Walk, take a yoga class, breathe deeply… relish your embodiment.

Happy replenishing!

This blog uses an image which is released as part of the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license.