My practice specializes in reproductive health. In many cases, I work with patients for Fertility Enhancement on to Pre & Postnatal massage so it’s natural for me to add Infant Massage to the services I offer my patients. For me the best part is passing on a skill – I don’t massage the babies I teach the parents how to massage to their own babies.
Working with my prenatal clients, I show them how to massage their babies while in the womb to help alleviate physical symptoms during pregnancy and delivery. Massage in utero, along with many health benefits, can really encourage bonding between parent and child. Bonding is so important to a child’s development and beginning touch early in life helps parents communicate with their baby. Infant massage is a preventive program that promotes loving touch right from the start. It is a perfect way for both parents to feel more close and comfortable with their baby. Our skin is the largest sensory organ of the body.
Some of the benefits of infant massage
- Increases our ability to bond & interact
- Stimulates physical & emotional growth
- Creates relaxation & relief
- Reduces emotional & physical stress
- Increases food absorption
Dr. Sharon Heller, PhD is a developmental psychologist. In their book The Vital Touch: How Intimate Contact With Your Baby Leads To Happier, Healthier Development, Heller writes that Americans have become container crazy. From car seat to the stroller, bouncy seat to high chair to crib. We are one of the few countries that deprive our infants of sensory and emotional stimulation because of our reliance on containers. This can create fussy babies starved of positive physical touch.
Heller’s book draws from an inspiring array of cultural and anthropological sources. This book explores the psychological, physiological, and sensory benefits of touch. And how we can provide soothing and nurturing environments for our children to thrive in. Did you know a baby can recognize their parent’s voice within 3 days? And although they can not make out the specifics of our faces they are very aware of and drawn to the shapes of our faces. Newborns see best 8-10 inches away so it is very important to hold babies close. When carriers are over-used babies do not develop a normal range of vision and normal development. Close contact is how infants learn to recognize your scent and touch which helps to calm their nervous system.
A study in Japan found that people have an extraordinary ability to read their child’s needs before they even seemed to express it. When studied they found that they practiced something called “SKINSHIP”. In this practice, the baby is kept up against the body all day in constant physical contact. These babies did not cry, were not fussy, had no digestion or elimination problems, and grew at healthy rates. This is attributed to the parents knowing their infant’s subtle cues before their babies even had a chance to express them. This close contact supports the baby’s ability to self regulate so they do not overwhelm their systems (nervous system, respiratory, cardiac musculoskeletal system). When asked how they knew all this they just replied that they thought ALL Parents knew how to take care of their baby’s needs as easily as they did.
In Bogota, “Columbia Kangaroo Care” or (K-Care) was developed to help poor babies develop and thrive because often incubators for the preemie babies were not available. Using K-Care they found the babies grew faster, were more healthy, cried less, slept better, stayed much more alert, breathed better, and went home faster than the similar babies that did not receive this same type of contact care.
Sometimes one partner feels left out in the process of caring for their newborns. It can be challenging when you are not the one providing basic needs. Whether it is a feeding issue or many times, just a lack of experience handling a baby, there can be a shyness with close physical contact.
Infant massage is a wonderful way to literally get the “Hands-On” experience. Parents end up doing a really great job with the massage and find they also reap the magnificent benefits of bonding with their child and gain new skills to support the comfort and care of their infant and family. Raising happy healthy children is what I imagine every parent wants most.