Monday, May 27, 2013

Touch: A Medicine for Healing and Growth

"Huddled in his clear Plexiglas incubator at Miami's Jackson Memorial Medical Center, 11-day-old Brandan ...seems as inaccessible as Snow White in her glass coffin. Born eight weeks premature, now weighing four pounds, Brandan must live in this artificially warmed environment because his own underdeveloped system can not yet regulate his body temperature.
Brandans's mother watches as Maria Hernandez-Reif of the University of Miami's Touch Research Institute (TRI), reaches through the incubator's portholes and begins to massage the baby. Her hand is larger than Brandan's entire back; as her fingers move in firm downward strokes, the baby's translucent skin looks as if it might tear as easily as tissue paper...Far from injuring the infant, the massage may be essential to his development, for newborns are meant to be touched."

In America, our society almost fears touch. We worry that touch will be seen as abuse or that we are being "too touchy". In essence we are touchy about touch. "Tiffany Field, a TRI researcher found that French parents and children touch each other three times more frequently than American parents and children. She worries that American aren't getting enough touch, especially with the growing concerns about sexual harassment and abuse in schools and workplaces."

-From the LIFE George Howe Colt

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The reality is that touch is an important tool and even a "medicine" for the development and growth of your baby. Preemies especially benefit from massage and touch. They gain weight faster, sleep longer, they spend less time in intensive care units and generally need less assistance with breathing. For other infants including preemies, touch is a calming aid for mom and baby and gets dad involved too. Mom's stress level is decreased and lower levels of depression were seen in mom's that do this. Brain development is also facilitated in the baby and mom's are better able to notice her babies cues. 

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