"Every child, no matter the age, should be massaged at bedtime on a regular basis.” So says Tiffany Field, PhD, of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Florida. Field and her associates at TRI have worked diligently over the past decade to prove the benefits of massage for children. But this is not a new concept. Infant massage has long been a common practice in many cultures. Many indigenous tribes use some form of bodywork to soothe, relax, and heal their little ones, sometimes including scented oils and herbal remedies as part of the experience.
Sometimes the most daunting tasks are the most rewarding. Cultural barriers surrounding touch, old habits promoting unhealthy environments, a lack of resources and funds, and the overabundance of unwanted children made Vonda Jump’s work all the more difficult. A Utah State University research associate in the College of Education, Jump didn’t mind the obstacles. In fact, they made her more determined to discover whether or not touch could change a child’s life. Her research subjects: The children of Ecuador’s orphanages.
A parent’s touch holds great power. The soothing massage of a mother’s hand can calm a fussy infant. A child’s fevered brow may be cooled by the gentle stroke of her father’s palm. And in too many unfortunate cases, a child may be physically hurt and abused by a striking blow from his parent. A natural conduit for emotions, touch or the lack thereof transmits important information about the parent/child bond, whether one of acceptance or rejection.