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August 2021

Soc Sci Med. 1987 ; 25(3): 231-9.

The role of massage in south Asia: child health and development.

Reissland N, Burghart R.

Massage, together with breast-feeding, are the two fundamental nurturing practices of women in south Asia. In Mithila women are expected to massage their infants daily. If they do not, they lay themselves open to censure. Implicit in massage is the idea that a child's health is preserved by fostering its strength and invulnerability. Massage 'works' by instilling fearlessness, hardening bone structure, enhancing movement and limb coordination, and increasing weight. These practices, in turn, are premised on the idea that between birth and weaning the infant is highly impressionable such that its identity can be shaped by the women who nurture it.


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