Infant Massage and Skin-to-Skin Benefits
Infant massage instructors know that skin-to-skin contact for babies is more scientifically and physiologically based than many people realize. There is a link between the skin and the brain that begins with the very earliest stage of human embryonic development. Upon conception, the fertilized egg travels to the uterus where it attaches. The next stage of development is the division of the cell into three “layers”, known as the endoderm, the mesoderm, and the ectoderm.
• The endoderm develops mainly into organs.
• The mesoderm develops mainly into bone and muscle.
• The ectoderm develops into the SKIN and the BRAIN, and the nervous system.
One way to look at this is to say that “the skin is the outermost part of the brain, and the brain is the innermost part of the skin”.
Because of the link of development between the skin and the brain, a relationship has been shown between skin-to-skin touch after birth and intelligence. The more tactile stimulation a baby receives in its first months of life up through the first year can impact their brain development permanently.
Skin Contact and Breastfeeding
Uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth has significant impact on infant brain development, and also on breastfeeding rates and duration.
One of the earliest studies on infant breast self-attachment was published in the Lancet Medical Journal. Dr. Leonart Righard of Sweden studied the ability of a newborn to breast crawl if it was separated from its mother within the first hour after birth, or was medicated during the birthing process. The study involved 72 vaginally delivered infants. The babies were placed naked on their mother’s stomach and given the opportunity to crawl to the breast on their own. Of the unseparated, unmedicated babies, all 17 crawled to the breast and 16 sucked correctly. Of the separated, medicated babies, 4 made it to breast but all four failed to suckle correctly, while 15 failed to breast crawl at all.
Separation alone, and medication alone also interfered with breast crawling and suckling. Of the separated, unmedicated babies, 14 of 15 crawled to the breast, but only 7 of them sucked correctly. Of the unseparated, medicated babies, 11 crawled to the breast and 8 of them sucked correctly, while 10 failed to breast crawl at all.
For more information on the importance of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact until after the first breastfeeding experience, visit www.breastcrawl.org.
Become a Certified Infant Massage Instructor
To become a Certified Infant Massage Instructor, Institute of Somatic Therapy offers an online massage therapy continuing education course, approved by the NCBTMB for 16 CEs. Click here to enroll today.