I read a book recently called The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog. It was written by a child psychiatrist about his experiences working with children who survived various forms of severe abuse and/or neglect. His approach is amazingly inspiring. He has managed to abandon traditional psychiatric diagnostic models in favor of an approach that instead aims to identify where development has been stunted and seeks to fill in those gaps.
One story stood out to me because it spoke to the power of touch. This child had experienced severely stunted growth and the doctors could not figure out what was physiologically wrong with him that he was failing to grow or properly absorb nutrition. Ultimately and amazingly they realized that lack of touch was to blame. Literally his caregivers did nothing beyond feeding him and changing his diapers. Forget skin to skin the way we think of it! He was never held, never cuddled.
These extreme scenarios may be hard to relate to but they can help us see the things we take for granted more clearly.
Every time you hold, massage, snuggle with your child, you are stimulating the hormones that make them grow and develop properly. Every time you offer or receive touch with anyone, you are nurturing an essential part of each other's being.
From the book, "...touch is critical to human development. Sensory pathways involved in the experience of touch are the first to develop and are the most full elaborated at birth, compared to sight, smell, taste and hearing. Studies of premature babies find that gentle skin to skin contact helps them gain weight, sleep better, and mature more quickly...In older children and adults massage has also been shown to lower blood pressure, fight depression, and cut stress by reducing the amount of stress hormones by the brain."
The psychiatrist who wrote this book actually partners with massage therapists to provide touch therapy for these traumatized children. While his stories are extremes most of will never interact with personally, it makes me want to remind us all, touch is healing. Touch is a hormonal happy maker. Touch is essential, not an indulgence.
Whether you are a child or already fully grown, I urge you to make time for touch. Whether that’s booking a massage for yourself, snuggling with your child, getting into bed with someone you love, or all of the above, whatever works for you! Do it!
And if you want to be part of the Comforting Touch revolution join me at any of the following classes:
Private couples massage classes
Private comforting touch for expectant parents
Group and Private Comforting Touch for Babies
Comforting Touch for Birth & Postpartum Doulas.