Child massage

Child massage IQ Academy - education, support, development - Iwona Pikora

Role of touch

Touch plays a very important role in life, which is particularly important in small children who, for the normal social development, need to be often stroked and cuddled with love as it is critical for their well-being. It is believed that the need of touch and feeling closeness is the greatest need of a newly born child. Obstetricians and neonatologists perfectly know how important the first skin to skin (STS) contact between mother and child directly after delivery is. For this reason, in order to maintain this contact, a naked neonate is laid down - still with an umbilical cord - on the naked mother’s body, so that they both can establish the first contact, including eye contact. A child must be kept warm and covered during that time so that it does not lose heat and this contact cannot be disrupted for two hours upon delivery.

Child massage - touch of love

In many countries the massage constitutes a form of daily child care - from the birthday. Direct tactile contact with a mother constitutes a source of kinetic impressions as well as a stimulus activating the development of the nervous system for a neonate. Maturation of the system in a small child consists in both development of particular fragments and regions of the brain cortex and advancing myelinisation of nervous fibres. The myelin sheath, surrounding each nerve like electric wire insulation, shields the nervous system, facilitates conduction of impulses and enables the development of connections between cells. The massage constitutes a factor which supports a very important stage of child personality development.

Attachment parenting

Currently, the idea of Attachment Parenting  (AP) is promoted. This term was established by an American paediatrician, William Sears, and concerns the “parenting philosophy” drawn from the development psychology and based on the theory of attachment of John Bowlby. The basis of attachment parenting is creation of safe bond between a child and caretakers which, in the future, will condition the strength and quality of social relations as well as have a key impact on the later child life. If parents are sensitive, they help a child to build a safe style of attachment which contributes to correct social and emotional development as well as influences the sense of happiness.


Less sensitive and emotionally detached parents - who neglect child’s needs - do not provide conditions for creation of safe bond style. The elements of attachment parenting include, e.g. “ensuring nutritional touch” and, exactly on this basis, the child massage becomes more and more popular.

The massage constitutes a factor which supports a very important stage of child personality development. A French psychologist, Henri Wallon, identifies the child personality with its psychophysical essence. Therefore, according to his concept, the base of mental changes are the processes taking place in the child body. The first three stages of development are enclosed within the neonate period with embryonal period. The first stage covers the life inside the uterus. It is the period of total biological dependence on the mother whose body fulfils all the child’s needs, even before they appear. The second stage is a stage of motor impulsivity - there is still a symbiosis between a child and mother, however, a neonate lives in a new environment in which it fulfils the need of oxygen on its own with the use of the breathing reflex. As late as at the third stage, the physiological symbiosis turns into an emotional bond between a child and mother and, for this reason, this stage can be called an emotional stage. A child still does not differentiate itself from the surroundings, does not have a sense of its own body, physical separateness, including mental separateness - does not know that it exists. Tactile impressions enable a child to “create itself”, know its own body, set its boundaries and become aware of its own separateness.


The fulfilment of the need of emotional contact (performed in the first stage, most of all, in contact with one person - most often, a mother) guarantees a child a sense of safety. The attachment plays a function of protection from situations threatening with some danger, releases from fear of strangers, objects and sites, darkness, animals and anxiety caused by violent movements. Failure to fulfil this need results in many negative consequences not only felt directly but also in the future. The long-term consequences are personality deformations manifesting themselves in different types of complexes, whereas the immediate effects concern not only the emotional zone (predominance of negative emotions, lack of sense of safety, conduct in contacts with other people), but also the development of intellect, speech and even physical condition. It turns out that children separated from their mothers show different types of symptoms of lack of adjustment.

Conditions for performance of child massage

The massage is performed prior to meals or at least two hours upon a meal. It can be repeated twice during a day: prior to breakfast and in the evening. The room in which the massage is performed must have the appropriate temperature. A child must be totally undressed, but it cannot feel the cold.

Impact of the massage on further life

The valuable skill of correct reaction to stressful situations acquired in childhood is permanently included in the defensive set of adult age. The skill of conscious relaxation is really useful in fighting different types of pressures existing in the modern world. It turns out that the type of relationships which we establish with other people in our adult age is the reflection of the type of bonds created in childhood. People who were provided with the sense of safety in that period (to whom parents paid a lot of attention, whom parents took on their hands, listened to and had good eye contact with; briefly speaking: who were loved and care for in the right manner) usually do not have any difficulties in establishing close contacts with other people. They are trustful and are perceived as such. Their relationships with partners are happier, last longer and relatively less often end up in divorce. In turn, children who were deprived of such bonds in childhood are characteristic of constant anxiety and lack of sense of safety. They are less sympathetic and it is more difficult for them to accept help from other people. They also cannot establish an intimate contact: their friendships or marriages are often victims of jealousy, fears and resistance from too close involvement.

So, the values constituting an essential element of child massages, such as trust, love, sympathy, warmth, openness or honesty will certainly bring profits in adult life.

Regular child massage performed every day or at least 3-4 times a week brings the following advantages:

To a neonate or child:

  • helps to regulate sleep,
  • improves digestion,
  • calms down, pacifies,
  • increases the awareness of one’s own body, its boundaries; thus, enhances the sense of safety,
  • improves, enhances bonds with a parent,
  • increases body immunity, stimulates hormonal system.
To a parent or caretaker performing the massage:
  • increases self-confidence, belief in one’s skills of taking care of a child, calms down,
  • soothes or prevents post-natal depression in mothers,
  • enhances and improves the bond with a child,
  • helps to understand a child, what it communicates, what needs it tries to present.