This guest blog post is written by my friend Jaime Middaugh who shares the benefits of Infant Massage and how to perform Infant Massage.
Jaime and I meet through my kids' Early Childhood Family Education classes where she was my parent educator. I immediately knew she had something special when she informed me about infant massage. Being a new mom I felt lost in knowing what was going on with my baby and even more lost in knowing what to do to help them. Infant massage was easy to implement into our lives and helped us create a bond with our baby through physical touch. I knew I needed to share this with more people. Thankfully Jaime agreed to help me spread awareness by creating this informative blog post.
Why Infant Massage?
Numerous studies have shown the many developmental benefits of positive contact as part of baby’s early life. Touch is your baby’s first language and infant massage is one of the most natural and pleasant methods of providing this early nurturing contact.
SUPPORTS INFANT/CHILD DEVELOPMENT
Infants who experience regular massage often see reduced stress, nervous system improvements and improved self-regulation and body-awareness.
IMPROVING SLEEP QUALITY
Bedtime routines, especially those including infant massage, have shown to improve multiple aspects of the sleep cycle for both the child and the parent/caregiver.
SUPPORTING BONDING & ATTACHMENT
Research supports that infant massage and infant massage parent education programs can increase parent confidence and attachment, resulting in greater success in adapting to and developing strategies to cope with parenthood and can benefit mothers with postpartum depression by helping them to relate to their baby and inducing the release of Oxytocin.
- Time it right. Don’t try to massage your baby just before or after a meal, or when she needs a nap. The best time for massage is when your baby is in a quiet alert state. Before you begin a massage, always check in with your baby and ask permission to massage him/her. This might sound silly, but asking, “Are you ready for your massage?” respectfully allows baby to anticipate and understand that touch is coming.
- Be mindful of your own emotional/mental state. It is helpful for parents to take a few deep breaths before getting started. As adults we carry lots of stress and tension that our baby picks up on. This will create a more relaxing experience for both the parent and child.
- Make the setting as relaxing as possible. Be mindful of the temperature of the room, especially since your baby will be disrobed. Placing your baby on a soft, warm blanket or towel in the centre of the bed or on the floor can help create a feeling of coziness and comfort. Be mindful of any jewelry that may catch, rub or irritate your baby's skin.
- Use of oils/creams: Food grade oils are the safest oils for your baby and provide the most benefits. The International Association of Infant Massage recommends that babies be massaged with a high-quality (preferably organic), unscented, cold-pressed vegetable oil. Cold-pressed oil is produced by mechanically pressing vegetables, fruits, seeds or nuts with low temperature. Oils such as these:
- Contain beneficial ingredients (e.g. vitamins and minerals that nourish the skin)
- Have no added scents (The most comforting scent to your natural scent. Food grade oils won’t mask your natural body odor, which is an essential part of bonding)
- Are edible and therefore recognized as digestible food by the body (Which is helpful because babies are notorious for putting hands, feet, basically anything in their mouth!)
- Read your baby’s cues. Watch your baby's reaction to each movement and if he/she doesn't like something, stop what you're doing and give him/her a cuddle instead. Just as every baby has a unique temperament, babies respond to massage in different ways. Sometimes a baby’s comfort level with massage is more gradual and best done in short and small increments. Never push or force massage onto your baby. This should be an enjoyable and loving shared experience for the two of you.
An infant massage sequence for the stomach
These strokes help calm while gently stimulating the digestive system. They promote a healthy gastrointestinal tract, as well as provide relief from gas, colic, and constipation.
Water Wheel - Place one hand under your baby's rib cage with the pinky side down and palm facing your baby's feet. Gently scoop your hand down his/her abdomen, stopping above his/her pelvis. Repeat the motion with your other hand, and continue alternating hands fluidly.
Thumbs to Sides - Hold your baby at the waist with both your thumbs in the center of his belly on either side of the navel. Draw both thumbs outward to the sides of his/her abdomen simultaneously.
Sun and Moon - Trace a circle ("sun") clockwise on your baby's tummy with your left hand. With your right hand, periodically make “half-moons” (or semi circles) along your baby's left side (your right side if you are facing baby). If it helps, think of your baby’s stomach as a clock. Your left hand is constantly moving in a clockwise fashion, making full rotations around the “clock.” Every time your left hand reaches 6:00, swoop in with your right hand and trace from 12:00 to 6:00 as your left hand is finishing out the full rotation. All of this is done simultaneously. It can be tricky to get the rhythm at first, but it is work it - this directs air from your baby’s tummy to their colon, then out.
I Love You - Hold your index and middle finger together, like you're taking a Girl Scout oath. Gently press the pads of your index and middle finger down the left side of your baby's belly, from under the rib cage to the leg crease, like an "I". Then, starting on the left side of your baby's belly, drag your index and middle finger across to the right and then down, like an inverted "L". After that, starting at your baby's right leg crease, drag your fingers in the shape of an upside-down "U" over the bellybutton and all the way to the left leg crease.
Walking - Walk your fingers across your baby's belly from his/her right to left side (this will be left to right if you are facing baby).
Knees up - Gently push your baby's knees up to his tummy. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, then straighten his legs and lightly bounce them to release the tension (this stimulates the colon and gets gas moving).
Jaime Middaugh is a Certified Educator of Infant Massage through the International Association of Infant Massage’s USA chapter, and provides Infant Massage instruction in both private and class settings. She used infant massage with her own children: Brielle (27 months) and Brice (14 months). To this day, she adapts the infant massage techniques to her toddlers in order to continue providing loving, nurturing touch in her bond with them.
Jaime also and has a teaching license and M.Ed. in Parent & Family Education from the University of Minnesota. She currently is an Early Childhood Parent Educator for the Anoka-Hennepin School District, where she educates and supports parents and their children ranging from birth-5 years of age.
IMUSA Website: https://www.infantmassageusa.org/