Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Infant Massage...Ahhh....

Massage. Even the word sounds good. But we know how good is FEELS. And guess what? Massage is great for baby, too!
OK, honestly, I was skeptical of infant massage. My first 6 (yes, SIX) children all seemed to enjoy being held and snuggled, and I really didn't give infant massage a thought. Actually, I never really heard of it until my 7 yr old came along, and that's when I didn't give it much thought.
But after Halle was born (at 24 weeks gestation), and after the LONG wait to even be able to hold her, the amazing Pat, her physical therapist, gave me quite a pile of literature on infant massage. She knew I was concerned about bonding with Halle because we had been so limited in the amount of time we could touch and hold her. Pat also brought at DVD for me to watch at Halle's bedside. Then, she offered to teach me the art of infant massage. (And I do think it's an art.) So while Pat "massaged" a doll, (because she feels strongly that massage should only be done by parents -- it forms such an intense bond of love and trust), she guided me through Halle's first massage.

We continued massage throughout her NICU stay. Halle had been poked and prodded so much, we had to teach her that touch was good. And it's a ritual we enjoy nearly every day. (By the way - you adoptive parents of AA children - it's a GREAT way to get the moisturizer, lube, lotion, whatever you want to call it - on that precious skin, too!)

Here are some key points:
Massage for Bonding
After your baby is born, consider infant massage to strengthen the bond between you and your baby. Massage a proven contributor to the development of secure and confident children. Research supports the fact that a loving, nurturing touch is necessary for the proper physical and psychological development of children. Dr. Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Center at the University of Miami, reports that: "...Massaged infants are more active, gain weight faster and become more efficient. It's amazing how much information is communicable in a touch..." Loving touch. There is nothing like it!

Massage to Help Upset Tummies
Is your little one gassy or spitting up a lot after feedings? Try this massage technique: Before your baby eats, massage the entire stomach area, lightly yet firmly, in a clockwise direction. Always use an edible oil, as the baby's fingers will probably go into the mouth. Corn, vegetable or virgin olive oils are great. Do not use mineral oils.

Facing the baby, start massaging with your fingertips from left to right. You can use circular motions, or rainbow-shape strokes. This helps the digestion, and helps to pass the gas. Don't massage counterclockwise; this can cause constipation. Moving the gas can be painful, so be sure to massage slowly. This should help keep the food down, and with less discomfort. You can do this for a few minutes before each meal, and doing it before bed makes for a better night's sleep!

Massage to Calm Your Baby
When your baby is inconsolable, extremely fussy and can't be comforted, try massaging your baby's feet. Use edible oil, warm your hands together and slowly massage one foot at a time. If you massage too fast, this can overstimulate and cause further fussiness. Talk or sing slowly and with a lowered voice. Also try gently holding their feet in your hands, and sing. If the baby seems to enjoy it (and that can mean simply being distracted), try moving up the legs and massaging the legs as well. Slowly, deliberately - not fast up and down.

Slowly massaging the baby's head is also very comforting; just the palm of your hand in gentle circular motions.

The Benefits of Massage
Infant massage and movement provide the following benefits to infants (and parents):
*support of the bonding process
*release of muscular tension created by motor skills acquisition
*may calm anxious babies and relieve symptoms of colic
*contributes to brain and motor development, self-esteem and pleasure in their bodies
*supports learning appropriate posture and movement patterns

(And here's a little mom-to-mom confession: when I felt like there wasn't much else I could do for Halle, a little massage seemed to always provide comfort - to both of us.)

So warm up the oil, settle in, and enjoy the magic moments of infant massage.

Books on infant massage
Massaging Your Baby - The Joy of TouchTime(tm) - Effective Techniques for a Healthier, Happier, More Relaxed Child & Parent by Dr. Elaine Fogel Schneider (2006). New York:Square One Publishers. This book was just highlighted in the May issue of Parents Magazine in the article entitled, "The Power of Touch." Dr. Schneider works with families and professionals in teaching the art of infant massage.
Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents by Vimala Schneider McClure (Bantam Doubleday Dell) A very popular book, recently expanded and updated, inluding fascinating new research about the effects of touch on parent-child bonding, infant stress, sensory development, and the care of special-needs babies.
Baby Massage: A Practical Guide to Massage and Movement for Babies and Infants by Peter Walker (St. Martin's Press) This book details a simple, effective, and safe way for parents to discover the magic and healing powers of gentle, loving touch. Twenty-one color photos and more than 100 detailed line illustrations.
The Book of Baby Massage: For a Happier, Healthier Child by Peter Walker and Janet Balaskas (Kensington Publishing) Co-written by the founder of Britain's Active Birth Centre.
Baby Massage: Parent-Child Bonding Through Touch by Amelia D. Auckett and Dr Tiffany Field. You can also order Dr Field's video, Baby Massage and Exercise, via Babies Today and Amazon.com.

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your information about infant massage. You may want to add my book, Massaging Your Baby - The Joy of TouchTime(tm) - Effective Techniques for a Healthier, Happier, More Relaxed Child & Parent (2006). New York:Square One Publishers, to your list of books. My book was just highlighted in the May issue of Parents Magazine in the article entitled, "The Power of Touch." Check it out and contact me, Dr. Elaine Fogel Schneider,drelaine@touch-time.com with any questions. I work with families and train professionals in the "art of infant massage" and am happy to be in touch with you.