The Power of a Mother’s Touch

To minimise the risk of infection and avoid putting ‘undue strain on the baby’s heart and lungs’ touch was minimal for premature babies and holding and touching mostly accompanied medical or hygienic procedures. As a direct result many premature babies identified being picked up with a stressful experience and consequently this would tend to make the mother and child relationship more difficult up on the baby’s release from hospital.
Far from touch putting undue strain up on the baby’s heart and lungs we now know that it is separation from the mother that causes arrhythmic heart rates, periodic breathing and irregular body temperatures. All of these due to the stress of being separated from their mothers. Some years ago I read of two doctors , Aldez and Rhea who gave a very clear indication of what happens when premature babies are kept with their mothers.
In despair at the mortality rate on their neonatal unit these two doctors removed the babies from incubators and gave all the babies back to their mothers. The mortality rate on their unit dropped. Pre-term infant research in neonatal intensive care units at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, show it’s possible to detect objective hormonal changes following regular periods of baby massage.

Those babies massaged averaging a 47% more weight gain per day, against those who weren’t, even though both study groups did not differ on formula intake in volume or calories.
Those babies massaged were awake and active a greater percentage of time during the sleep/wake behaviour observations.
Those babies massaged showed more mature habituation, orientation, motor and range of state behaviour and on average were hospitalized 6 days less than the non massaged babies.

This information is supported by other supplemental studies reporting ‘greater weight gain, motor activity and alertness’ in similar massaged preterm infants.

Eight months on these same babies still showed a weight gain advantage and were performing better on the Bayley Mental and Motor Scales. Superior growth and development thought to result from better parent infant interaction facilitated by the babies being massaged and more responsive during the newborn period.

These and other studies show the benefits of massage on healthy preterm infants.

Studies of regular baby massage upon fetal distress include;


These babies show perinatal complications, neurological and behavioural abnormalities. Central nervous system deficits indicative of fetal distress include, lower vagal tone, increased heart rates and lower Agpar scores.

Behavioural studies show stress behaviours that include tremors, restlessness, irritability, hypertonia, and abnormal reflexes.
Although best to eliminate infants who had also been exposed to alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, studies show 85% of drug exposed neonates are polydrug exposed. Because of the exposure in these infants to other drugs as well as cocaine, these findings can well apply to some other drug exposed babies.
Despite this however, in this study, cocaine was the primary drug used.

Two groups of fifteen medically stable babies equivalent in age, birth weight,intensive care unit duration and current weight were observed.

All continued receiving standard nursery care and parents visited, held and fed their babies, with massage therapy provided for half the group.

In short the massaged infants showed a 28% greater daily weight gain than the non-massaged, although again the groups did not differ on calorie or volume intake. The massaged babies experienced fewer postnatal complications and had more mature motor behaviours, fewer stress behaviours and better orientation after only 10 days of 15 minutes a day, baby massage treatment.

Bearing in mind AIDS is among the top ten causes of death in children from 1-4 years old, the results of another study on the benefits of baby massage on preterm neonates testing HIV positive is also extremely encouraging.

In brief, in the absence of compensatory treatment provided by baby-massage. exposure to HIV can contribute towards developmental delay and a failure to thrive as early as the newborn period.

On the positive side its clinically proven, that deterioration in HIV exposed newborns, can be reduced with baby massage therapy. Weight gain is greater with significantly fewer stress behaviours, as compared to the non massaged group. The mothers of HIV exposed babies also encouraged to massage their babies showed lower anxiety levels, their anxieties  related to their despair at their babies condition.



PETER WALKER specialises in supporting parent and child relationships and the well-being and fitness of mothers and babies, especially those babies and children with developmental delay from conception to to seven. His certificated Teacher Training Courses in Developmental Baby Massage for professionals working with mothers and babies are given throughout the UK and internationally. These courses attract midwives, health visitors, neonatal nurses and other therapists from all around the world. A pioneer of Developmental Baby Massage and YogaGym for babies and children from the 1980s onwards. Peter is credited as the original NHS baby massage teacher trainer who’s teacher training resulted in baby massage being offered free to parents in health centres and clinics throughout the United Kingdom. The leading international trainer for Developmental Baby Massage with over 35 years of group teaching experience Peter currently has over 14,000 teachers or more in over 20 different countries all taught and certificated by him teaching Developmental Baby Massage. Background Peter has studied yoga and experiential anatomy from the early ‘80’s. He worked with a group practicing ‘Psycho- Gymnastics’ and ‘Re- Birthing’ for some ten years under the supervision of R.D. Laing psychiatrist musician, and author and a founder of the Philadelphia Association in London. Peter introduced yoga and massage into a number of Dr. Laing’s therapeutic communities and from the mid-eighties onwards has given Childbirth Support and taught Developmental Baby Massage and Soft Post-Natal Yoga to mothers and babies with some unique techniques for parents with babies with developmental delay. Peter has made numerous television appearances and has featured in documentaries and breakfast shows on all the UK’s major channels. He has also given talks on BBC Radio One, Woman’s Radio, Radio Wales and other radio stations and has been featured in articles in Woman, Cosmopolitan, Harpers & Queen, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, Japan Times and Australia’s Natural Parenting magazine and many other national publications including most UK ‘mother and baby’ periodicals. His numerous books, sold in 18 different languages, include: Baby Gymnastics (Unwin) Baby Relax (Unwin) Going for Gold [with DaleyThompson] (Unwin) Natural Parenting (Gaia) The Book of Massage (Gaia) Baby Massage (Piatkus) Hop, Skip and Jump [Gymnastics for Children] (Carroll and Brown) Developmental Baby Massage (Carroll and Brown, 3rd reprint, October 2010, special edition) Sharing Pregnancy E Book 2012 Peter has also made the following films: Baby Massage Step 1 2 and 3 (Little Venice Films) Massage and Movement: Birth to Three Years Sharing Pregnancy [A Unique Film for Fathers] DVD Developmental Baby Massage, DVD Soft Baby Yoga, DVD YogaGym, DVD Stretching Together, DVD Peter works worldwide throughout the United Kingdom and abroad. For more detailed information about his teacher training course See Email:

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