Infant Massage

Infant massage is one of the most precious gifts we can give our babies, and it is free.   Touch is a human basic need and research has shown it is an important factor in mental and social development.  Some of the many benefits to massage include:

Stimulation – The skin is the largest organ of the body and it is one of the first it be developed.   Touch is known to improve brain and muscular development.  The increase in circulation reduces stress and tension in muscles.   Massage stimulates almost every system in the body including the circulatory system, digestive system, hormonal system, immune system, nervous system, respiratory system, lymphatic system, and the vestibular system. (Coordination and balance)   It helps with sensory integration and mind-body awareness.   It improves learning ability, stimulates muscular development, tone, growth, elimination, and connections between neurons.

Relaxation – Touch releases hormones that help to keep our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) balanced.  It can help to release built up tension and to regulate behavioral states allowing babies to sleep better.   It can increase a caregiver’s sense of confidence thereby making the baby feel secure.   It helps to normalize tone, increase coping mechanisms, reduce stress levels, decreases hypersensitivity, and decrease hyperactivity.

Relief – Massage can help to tone the digestive tract relieving the baby of colic.   It can help to eliminate built up gas.   It helps to release endorphins (these are the body’s natural pain killers) which can ease pain, even growing pains.  Massage is known to assist in the relief of muscular tension, teething discomfort, sensitivity to touch, physical and psychological tension, disorganization of the nervous system, constipation and elimination. 

Interaction – Massage helps to promote bonding and secure attachments.  It provides one on one quality time for both the baby and the caretaker.  The parent can learn cue reading by nonverbal communication that fosters a nurturing response toward the baby.  For the baby, benefits include receiving a sense of belonging, learning healthy boundaries and social cues.   Massage develops positive interactions between the parents and the baby. 

Bonding is what occurs when two people are helping each other to meet the other’s needs.  It is an attachment or strong tie between two people.   Bonding is a lifelong process.   As long as you are providing a loving space for someone in your heart, whether they know it or not, then you have a bond.  Bonding occurs when the baby and parents know they can totally rely on each other to help meet each others needs.  The baby’s needs are regulation, calming, and being heard.  For parents the needs are knowing that they are the expert on their own child no matter what everyone is telling them.   Knowing that their child relies on them and loves them.  Knowing that they can communicate with their child without words or touch.

There are many types of bonds.  Lifelong and temporary.  Bonding is enhanced by touch or skin to skin contact, eye contact, smell, sound (through singing) and by the general responsiveness of care giving.  Many things can disrupt bonding including parents’ interpretation of the baby’s reactions to parents.  By this I mean with an autistic child they sometimes have difficulty with eye contact and parents can interpret this as the child does not like them when in truth it is a self defensive mechanism to decrease over stimulation.  When children are adopted or the mother goes through postpartum depression this can provided a delay in the initiation of the bonding process.  And then, of course, there are those babies that are taken away from their parents due to prematurity and placed in isolates in the NICU.  Infant massage is a great way to reinitiate the bonding process.

During massage class we always have the parents ask their baby permission before they begin a massage.  This tells the baby that a new experience is about to occur and allows the baby to prepare for the experience.  It also teaches the baby about respect and allows the baby to recognize that he is a human being.  The baby can learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy touch and when he grows older will have the knowledge of healthy boundaries.  It also helps the parents to begin to read the baby’s cues. Massage is done at the pace the babies are willing to accept.  New strokes are introduced each class so babies are not over stimulated.  Classes run between 1 - 1 1/2 hours for four to five weeks.  The classes are based on the guidelines presented by Infant Massage A Handbook for Loving Parent's author Vimala McClure.  Additionally, parents have an opportunity to chat with other parents and share their experiences.  Learning infant massage helps parents have a focused one-on-one time with their baby.

For more information or to find a class in San Diego, please contact:

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