Massage Your Baby to Health and Happiness~ by Petrina Fava
There is a wonderful parenting practice that many cultures have been using with their infants and children for thousands of years. Western and European cultures have just recently started to appreciate the enormous value of this simple technique. Caregivers in Africa, India, Indonesia and Nepal have long known that regular, loving touch and gentle massage can quickly ease their baby’s discomforts while also providing a wonderful opportunity to nurture the infant.
What caregivers in these parts of the world may not be aware of is the enormous amount of research which is being done to demonstrate that infant massage has great benefits for both the baby who is receiving and the caregiver who is providing the massage.
Studies show that there is better bonding and attachment between a baby and their caregiver when massage is provided. Regularly setting aside time to massage your baby provides both of you with quiet, focused time together and helps you to learn each other’s specific cues and rhythms. Fathers who may otherwise feel that they do not have the same chance to bond with their infants as mothers do (especially if mom is breastfeeding), can use this very special time to learn about their baby and connect with them in their own unique way. Besides the improvement in bonding, massage will create positive physical changes in you and your baby. Massage increases levels of certain hormones that help us feel loving and nurturing towards our babies. Oxytocin enhances warm and nurturing emotions and encourages a parent’s desire to care for their baby. It also induces feelings of sleepiness and calm. The hormone Prolactin improves breastfeeding in lactating women. So, massage helps both baby and caregiver to relax and alleviate built up tension.
Massaging your baby can help with development. It improves neurological and muscular development, stimulates circulation, aids in digestion, accelerates weight gain and assists in developing regular sleeping patterns. Perhaps most importantly, participating in massage with you baby can gives parents and caregivers a tremendous sense of confidence. It helps them feel good about the fact that they are better able to communicate with their baby and respond to their needs.
Essentially, massage is not merely about performing specific strokes. Far more than just a technique, massage with a child is a time for focusing on each other and connecting in a special way. Caregivers should always begin by taking a few minutes to relax. A quiet and softly lit warm room will ensure that baby is comfortable while undressed and not over stimulated. Babies are always asked for “permission” prior to beginning the massage and parents learn to recognize baby’s “yes” and “no” cues. This is essential to nurturing an attitude of mutual respect and building on the child’s self esteem. The use of vegetable or fruit based oils is encouraged since these are edible and do not contain potentially harmful substances such as mineral oil.
It is a good idea to learn infant massage from a Certified Infant Massage Teacher as there are some important considerations pertaining to massage. For instance, babies should not be massaged if they have a fever or if they have received an immunization within 48 hours prior to the massage. A Certified Infant Massage Teacher can help caregivers learn these precautions and guide families on how to decide if massage is right for their baby at any given time.
Simple and effective, infant massage is a wonderful practice that can help caregivers discover more about their baby while communicating immense feelings of love and affection. All while encouraging the release of important hormones, stimulating growth and development, encouraging sleep and perhaps most importantly, having fun!
Petrina Fava is a pediatric Registered Nurse, Certified Infant Massage Teacher and Level II Reiki Practitioner. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Ryerson University in 1997 and has worked at Sick Kids’ Multi Organ Transplant Unit for eleven years. She learned to teach infant massage with Tina Allen, founder of the LiddleKidz Foundation. She loves teaching infant massage because it focuses on wellness and enjoys coaching families to feel empowered and confident in caring for their children. Currently working part time, Petrina is also a proud mom of two girls, aged 5 and 2.
Petrina will be teaching an Introductory Infant Massage Session on Wednesday July 29, 2009. Caregivers can attend this session to try some infant massage without the obligation to register for the entire four weeks. Full sessions are held once a week for four weeks (or more) at various locations throughout the GTA. In home private or group sessions are also available. Please see the Gentle Connections website for details. Experience the connection only touch can bring!
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