By: 13 June 2023
Peter Walker shares an insight into the benefits of ‘developmental’ baby massage

Peter Walker specializes in Developmental Baby Massage, focusing on supporting attachment and bonding while helping babies achieve their motor milestones from birth to standing and walking. With over forty years of experience working with mothers and babies, Peter has certified 25,000 teachers worldwide. 


OGMN: Can you provide more insight into the benefits of ‘developmental’ baby massage? 

PW: Baby massage has been proven by generations of mothers and midwives worldwide to have numerous benefits. It helps relieve birth trauma, promotes attachment between mother and child, and aids in achieving important motor milestones. The importance of nurturing touch was recognized as far back as 1248, as documented in Frederick’s Experiment “These babies could not live without petting.” This historical record highlights the significance of tactile relationships for infants’ survival. 

The period from birth to standing and walking is crucial for a child’s health and development, as it relies on social interaction with their caregivers. This phase is marked by rapid neural growth and physical development, where a well-developed tactile relationship can greatly assist in maximizing motor milestones and promoting good posture and agile movement. 

By understanding the child’s motor milestones, caregivers can encourage them to make the most of these developmental stages. Early intervention through massage and movement can alleviate birth trauma, separation anxiety, and even address more serious trauma and potential disabilities. 


OGMN: What are your top tips for parents and midwives regarding baby massage? 

PW: Discover the massage routine that offers the greatest benefits for both mothers and babies. Birth is a challenging experience for babies, and the post-birth period presents a unique opportunity for mothers to develop a nurturing touch, including gentle massage, to relieve physical and emotional trauma. Early intervention is now recognized as highly significant in relieving locomotor disabilities, as emphasized by Professor Marlene Behrmann. 

In 1979, during a series of lectures titled “Our Approach to Psychiatry” at The Logan Hall in Bloomsbury, psychiatrist R.D. Laing and French obstetrician Frédérick Leboyer presented evidence supporting the importance of this period for emotional health. Leboyer’s book and film “Loving Hands” and Laing’s reflection on his patients’ experiences highlighted the need for emotional attachment in social relationships. These lectures were among the first to advocate for women’s basic human rights in making decisions regarding birth and attachment. 


OGMN: As a pioneer of baby massage classes in the UK, do you see wider recognition of their benefits for social health? 

PW: I was accredited as the first and most responsible for providing free baby massage teaching in health centers across the UK. Over the past forty years, I have facilitated numerous baby massage classes, witnessing the transformative effects of a strong tactile relationship on the mother-child bond. These classes have enabled many mothers and babies to overcome initial difficulties after childbirth and form secure attachments. 

While progress has been made since the late 20th century, when it was mistakenly assumed that babies couldn’t feel pain and their responses were learned (Rodkey and Ridell, 2013), the benefits of baby massage are now acknowledged as more than just a passing trend by our health minister. Reopening the 1000 childcare centers that were closed and providing adequate funding to restore staff and amenities, including pre and post-natal care and baby massage classes, would demonstrate a genuine commitment to the well-being of infants and adults. In the long term, this investment would yield significant financial savings for our medical and social services. 


OGMN: Can you provide more specific details? 

PW: Certainly. The focus should not be solely on how quickly children achieve their motor milestones but on how well they accomplish them. Many parents lack knowledge about their child’s motor milestones, including their sequence and the benefits they offer for the child’s physical well-being. Understanding the individual benefits of each milestone and their cumulative effect is crucial. In the context of developmental baby massage, my work over the past 45 years has aimed to educate parents about the importance of helping their child achieve all milestones rather than rushing to get them on their feet as quickly as possible. 

This developmental phase is not a competition. Motor milestones form the foundation for a balanced and agile body, influencing the healthy functioning of the organs it supports. By engaging in therapeutic play using massage and movement, parents can empower their babies to achieve and maximize upon the benefits of their motor milestones. 

Regardless of any diagnosis or prognosis of physical disablement, my own studies and research, such as “Brain Plasticity, The Golden Art of Adaption” by Professors Wolf and Behrmann, demonstrate the benefits of early intervention. According to Professor Wolf, “if we get to these kids when they’re young enough, before they lay their permanent pathways, the brain is plastic enough for it to adapt and overcome.” Who better to facilitate this than the mother or partner, who can engage with the child at the right time and in the best way, ensuring consistent practice to overcome infant disabilities? My case studies spanning four decades show that the correct form of early and consistent baby massage can prevent and bring about profound changes in infant disabilities, enabling the child to live a normal life and reducing the need for extensive social care. 


OGMN: What advice do you have for parents with babies with disabilities who require additional support? 

PW: I believe that the significant benefits of massage and movement for relieving emotional trauma and physical disabilities during the early months of neurological development continue to be overlooked. If a developmental delay is diagnosed, it is crucial not to adopt a “wait and see” approach. This is when adverse neurological patterns become apparent in the child’s physical movement or when weight gain hinders their ability to achieve important milestones. Which can make it more difficult to correct. 


OGMN: Are you currently involved in any research? 

PW: Research is an ongoing journey for me. I have a skype clinic that enables me to work closely with mothers and baby’s and to observe and learn from the children I support. The results of my ongoing research will be published in a new book scheduled for release later this year. This book will provide guidance on developmental baby massage for all babies and children, incorporating the most current information on enablement from birth to walking. 


OGMN: Do you have any upcoming training events planned for this year? 

PW: I have the pleasure of offering regular teacher training courses specifically designed for professionals working with mothers and babies, including peri-natal mental health practitioners, midwives, health visitors, and early care and neonatal nurses. 

Individuals are welcome to enroll on their own, or if preferred, group arrangements can be made. The training courses are conveniently available in both online and face-to-face formats, allowing for flexibility based on preferences and needs. 

For more information regarding my teachers courses and skype clinic