Father’s Day “Touch Tips” from Touch Research Institutes, Boston Medical Center and Johnson & Johnson Pediatric Institute.
More and more fathers are learning and practicing infant massage, and a recent survey reveals that those who massage their babies early in life establish warm, positive relationships that continue as the child grows.
While the infant health benefits of a mother’s massage are firmily established, new research shows that a father’s touch is equally essential to a baby’s health and well being. Health benefits for infants include fewer sleep problems, as well as strengthening and regulating the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems. Fathers also gain from the experience of infant massage.
“As they learn to soothe their babies, fathers notice their own stress levels decrease. Together they experience the calming, power of touch and begin to build their life long attachment,” said Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine and co-author of the survey on father-infant massage.
The survey showed that fathers who used massage techniques with their infants for three months, experienced increased self-esteem as parents due to increased involvement with their newborns. The babies, meanwhile, greeted their fathers with more eye contact, smiling, vocalizing and reaching responses.
In addition to the Touch Research Institutes, a growing number of hospitals are recognizing that infant massage is one way to give fathers more purpose in their babies’ lives. One such hospital, Boston Medical Center, encourages fathers to play a hands-on role during labor and after the baby is born. “Too often all is left on the mothers, while fathers are left standing in the corner,” says Susan O’nally of Boston Medical Center. “We give fathers a purpose and a place.”