A lesson from the animals: an important massage for newborns

by Steve Capellini, massage therapist.

Have you ever watched a cat give birth? Directly afterwards, mamma cat begins licking her babies all over, with a special concentration in the genital area. The same is true for dogs. And horses. And cows. And aardvarks and antelopes and giraffes. In fact, every species of mammal with exception of man lick their young immediately after birth.

massage-therapist-mike-newbornAt first, you may assume that this licking is to clean of the gooey stuff, plastered all over the new-born’s body. That’s partially true, but far more important that the cleaning is the licking itself, the touch of tong to flash or fur.

I was in my first massage therapy class, in California, when the instructor steted that massaging a new-born baby’s perineum (the area between the genital and the anus) with a warm moist cloth was a good idea to simulate the action of licking engaged in by other animals. In other words, he was advising us to metaphorically lick the baby’s butt.

At the moment, and for several years afterwards, I thought this California massage instructor was a little too “out there” for his own good. But now, after discovering the importance of this type of stimulation in every other species of mammal, it makes perfect sense. This critical form of early contact jump-start the new-born’s gastrointestinal tract and is perhaps the most primal type of “massage” that we can offer our young.

You can recreate the natural sensation of licking for your new-born by taking a baby-wipe or moist towel and rubbing it gently over the skin in this important area a couple of times a day for the first few months of life, starting on day one.

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