Massage therapists see the benefits of massage on infants firsthand. Carolyn Molloy, a certified infant massage instructor in the Peri-natal and Neo-natal Units at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, tells of her positive experience with infant massage therapy. She explained the importance of massage therapy by using the two terms negative touch and positive touch. Negative touch is any touch that is painful, invasive or uncomfortable to the baby. This type of touch is usually experienced during medical procedures that are performed by someone other than the parent(s) or caregiver(s) of the child. Positive touch, in contrast, is any loving, nurturing, soothing, or comforting touch.
According to Malloy, a balance between negative touch and positive touch needs to be achieved to prevent long-term problems. She feels that an overabundance of negative touch without positive touch to balance it out may cause the baby to develop tactile defensiveness or touch aversion.
There are certain reasons why Molloy feels infant massage therapy is becoming more important. Premature births are on the rise due to the higher use of fertility drugs. These drugs result in more multiple births. Also, the overall stress of life in today’s world could be a contributing factor to more pre-term labor. Premature babies experience many more medical procedures than other infants because they are usually required to stay in the hospital longer before they are released to go home. This produces an overabundance to negative touch. Molloy views massage as the logical solution to the problem of this overabundance of negative touch. Infant massage therapy reduces tactile aversion that the baby may have developed while in the hospital.