Mothers have been instinctively touching their infants with loving strokes since the beginning of time. Recent medical research is proving that regular massage has numerous benefits for both parent and child. So if touch is an instinct, how is that different to massage for a baby?
Babies come into the world from the safety and security of the womb, to a veritable explosion of stimuli – sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste; cold, heat, soft, hard, loud to name a few. It is a lot for their little brains and nervous systems to contend with, but they have the amazing ability to process it all. Regular massage can make this process faster, yet easier, with the added benefit of relaxation.
One of the differences in massage for babies and older children/adults is to decrease the strokes that over-stimulate them, and increase the strokes that relax them. All massage, through skin stimulation, affects the nervous system. With all of those senses kicking into gear, the maturation of the nervous system has a huge bearing on how a baby deals with the processing of information. One of the most valuable benefits to a baby who has regular massage is the more effective processing of the messages involving the vagus nerve in the brain that directly affects respiration and the digestive system. In other words, babies who are regularly massaged generally have fewer incidences of asthma/respiratory problems, and disorders like colic, wind and constipation.
Other benefits of baby massage include:
- a more relaxed baby (therefore a more relaxed mother)
- better sleep patterns (by increasing the release of serotonin and melatonin hormones, therefore better sleep for parents)
- increased growth
- reduced crying time and anxiety
- improved alertness
- stronger immune systems (from the increase in blood cells that are an integral part of natural immunity, and better functioning of the lymphatic system which deals with toxins)
- reduction of stress hormones in children and parents
- enhanced ‘good’ emotions from increased dopamine levels (a neurotransmitter and hormone that makes you feel better)
- enhanced cognitive and motor development (through body awareness and alertness)
- relief of pain
- reduced symptoms of eczema (from the anti-inflammatory qualities of special oils).
One of the added benefits to the parent is ‘enhanced bonding’, especially for those suffering from post-natal depression. This is again, because of the release of the ‘feel-good’ hormones, plus the physical and deliberate touching and stoking creates a new awareness of eye contact and skin-to-skin stimulation.
So you can see how regular massage, even for a severely pre-term infant can be beneficial is so many ways and controlled studies have confirmed these benefits.
- According to Tiffany Field (Touch Institute, Florida), a renowned researcher of massage therapy, a controlled study of preterm infants showed that those that had problematic obstetric or perinatal histories gained more weight with regular massage than those who were not massaged. Another study in 1997 concluded that a mother’s depression can pass to baby; massage was one of the methods used to counteract negative affects on babies’ development. Childhood Leukemia and Cystic Fibrosis are amongst diseases in which studies have proven that massage can be beneficial as a treatment.
- Infant massage is even a suitable gentle and drug-free treatment for infants suffering from disorders like cerebral palsy, autism and downs syndrome. Whether their little nervous systems are over or under-stimulated, particular massage techniques can be a valuable tool to assist in their daily routines.
In baby massage classes, parents/caregivers are taught techniques and sequences of strokes; some of them specialized for a particular purpose, and how to communicate even with a newborn, about their readiness and willingness to be massaged.
For example, babies are very protective about having their chest massaged, as this is their emotional center, and for nine months in the womb, they naturally have their arms curled up in the foetal position protecting this area. It is fascinating to watch each individual child in a class have different responses when ‘asked’ permission to be massaged – some are happy to have their chest stroked, some only want to be held, and others communicate that they want you to remove your hands from this area completely. The body language from a tiny baby is amazingly strong, when you know what you to look for.
A common misconception is that massage is done at bath time, as baby is already undressed, and the oil can be washed off afterwards. However, massage is discouraged at bath time at least until 5 months of age, because it is over-stimulating, plus if the oil used is the recommended organic, chemical-free, seed/vegetable/fruit or nut oil, with anti-inflammatory and moisturizing qualities, why would you want to wash it off the skin? Massage oil on a baby must be completely edible, as they will be putting their hands and feet in their mouth. Just because an oil is suitable for massage, it is not necessarily edible, and vice-versa. For example, olive oil is edible, but is not suitable for massage, as it is not absorbed very well in the skin.
Some of the strokes that are taught originate from Indian massage techniques, which are more relaxing, and others come from Swedish massage techniques and are more stimulating, so you can see why some strokes are not suitable if you are trying to settle a sleepless baby. Other methods are based on reflexology, which is the ancient method of using reflex areas on the feet, which are directly related to other organs in the body.
About the Baby Massage Classes
- Classes are spread over two ninety-minute lessons. This enables the parent to practice a few strokes at a time in between classes. There is just too much information, practical and theoretical, to cover in one session.
- By the conclusion of the course, parents have the knowledge to perform a full body massage, and the tools to adapt the sequence to the ever-changing milestones of their growing child – right up to adolescence when that bonding continues.
- Small group classes are a great way to meet other parents and socialise. However, for those who do not wish to be a part of a group setting, the option is to have two 90-minute classes one-on-one, at a time to suit you, at a cost of $165 – great value for individualised tuition.
- The cost of each group course is $95 (minimum of 4 participants) – excellent value for something that will last a lifetime.
- The instructor for Baby Massage Classes is Lyn Davies. Lyn is a Registered Nurse, Massage Therapist and Certified Infant Massage Instructor. Comprehensive class notes are supplied, so information taught is at your fingertips.
- Lyn has suitable and recommended massage oil available to purchase (oil used in classes is supplied free of charge), as well as instruction booklets complete with pictures, and CDs for those who need the visual information to review.
For more information please give me a call on 0410 491 797, or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.