Infant Massage has existed for centuries in many countries around the world. It is an ancient art that connects you deeply with your baby. It helps you to understand your baby’s particular non verbal language and respond with love and respectful listening. It empowers you as a parent and carer by giving you the means to become an expert on your own child.
At the heart of Infant Massage is the promotion of nurturing touch. Touch is the first sense to develop in utero and it is the last sense to leave us before we die. Our skin is our largest organ and our most important and primary connection to the world. Well known anthropologist Dr Ashley Montagu wrote
“Human beings cannot survive without touch; it is a basic behavioural need”
The Infant Massage programme which I run and which is generally followed by accredited instructors consists of five weeks of 1.5 – 2 hour sessions. The environment is one conducive to relaxation and always baby/child friendly. There is therefore ample opportunity for feeding, changing, playing and relaxing with your baby while also accommodating a sibling toddler (or two!). Generally each group will have between five and eight parents and babies which allows for good interaction and attention all round.
In each session parents are instructed on a range of massage techniques which they practice on baby as per the guidelines outlined by the instructor. Techniques can be adapted to suit the growing baby and suggestions are given for using massage on toddlers, older children and teens. Each week a different body area is worked on while also revisiting the learning from the previous week. In this way a full body massage can be completed by week five with each parent getting opportunities to learn and practice the techniques and to catch up in the event that they have missed a session or part of one. There is also time for sharing of information, discussing all kinds of baby, child and family matters and finding out about supports and services in the locality.
Parents make connections with each other and soon phone numbers and Facebook accounts are being swapped or group ones are being set up. Feedback from parents suggests that they value both the social side of Infant Massage as well as learning the massage techniques which bond them more closely with their baby. In the evaluation sheet given at the end of the programme one mum wrote
“I really enjoyed the relaxing environment and my baby liked having his tummy massaged”. Another parent said that “it was lovely to be in a baby-friendly place” while another said “she looked forward to coming to the class each week and would miss the class”.
Many parents continue to link with one another after the classes and some choose to attend Parent and Toddler groups, meet informally and/or attend more structured parenting programmes.
Overall Infant Massage classes provide very positive experiences for both parents and babies and the learning and friendships continue long after the five week programme has ended. Infant massage classes are available locally in Limerick City and across the Mid-West region. Some are free or have a minimal fee while others vary in cost per session or per programme. Some therapists will also provide individual classes in their /or baby’s home. Anyone with private Health Insurance can claim back the full cost of the programme provided the therapist is registered with baby massage Ireland.
Written by Colette Laffan a qualified and accredited Infant Massage Therapist with the IAIM, International Association of Infant Massage, www.iaim.net and with www.babymassageireland.com
For more information, research and to find your nearest Therapist please log onto the website at www.babymassageireland.com