Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Remembering the Power of Touch - Massaging Our Babies

“Being touched and caressed,
Being massaged, is food for the infant
Food as necessary as minerals,
Vitamins, and proteins.”

Dr Frederick Leboyer

I have always loved cuddles and to be stroked. As a child I would seek out the family member who was prepared to stroke my hair for as long as I wanted, or who would give me the snuggly cuddle I so needed at that time. I’ve always been cuddly by nature and my Mum always told me that I taught her how to hug as it wasn’t something that came easily to her. She had to learn and fast as she’d produced a cuddle bug whose need for touch was great.

That need has never left me and having been a Massage Therapist for 9 years before having the girls I appreciate the impact touch has on people. I’ve had people fall asleep many times during my treatments but the reaction that always made me feel exceptionally humble was when a client would break down and cry. Touch does that you see. It gets to the deepest layers of our inner most being and when we feel loved, accepted and nurtured we finally feel able to let go of those buried feelings and what often occurs is a surge of deep seated emotion that needs to be released.

As we evolve along our journey as souls, there seems to be an ever growing group of emotionally detached individuals who think very much in the “I” rather than the “we”. Many children are becoming desensitized to so much in our modern world and we are moving further and further away from the “feeling” side of ourselves. We immerse ourselves far more in computers and the internet; an unreal world of virtual reality where we lose sight of actual events happening around us. And our kids are following our lead into this unfeeling, unreal world and that’s a worry.

Photo Credit: In Your Hands Massage

So what can we do to re-connect to that part of ourselves and to our children? Well one way is to connect with our babies and children through touch and massage is a powerful tool in doing that. I trained and qualified as a baby massage instructor with the IAIM (International Association of Infant Massage) about 8 years ago now. I never took it further as I moved to France and circumstances took over meaning I never pursued the teaching side. However, I did use it on Sophia and it definitely helped me to bond with her when I suffered with my PND. For that I will be truly grateful.

My sister-in-law’s sister, Philippa visited us whilst we were living in France when her second son was still a baby. Her first son had been a very “easy” baby and they had attended baby massage classes together in addition to all the other things you tend to excitedly do with your new bundle of joy. Her parenting journey thus far had been a very happy, straight forward one but with her second son the arrival of reflux made this new journey with him much tougher and more emotionally challenging. It was whilst visiting us in France that Philippa and I talked about baby massage and how it could help his reflux and also help to strengthen the bond between them. It is so important to remember as a Mum that we need to take time out, and understand that for some of us that “rush of love” feeling doesn’t always happen straight away. Like myself, Philippa realised that back then she was possibly suffering with PND herself and it was the reconnection with baby massage along with support from family, friends and her health visitor that enabled her to come through the other side and thankfully for those of you living in the Salisbury and Test Valley area, Philippa went on to train as an Infant Massage Instructor with the IAIM too.

Philippa Thain from "In Your Hands" Baby Massage

Because of her own personal journey, Philippa has been able to bring a wealth of experience and understanding to her classes. As she explains, “Baby massage gives parents the opportunity to stop; to stop to listen to their baby.  The gentle repetitive strokes, the encouragement to talk, sing and hold your baby.  The confidence to listen to your baby’s cues, to realise that only you, the primary caregiver, actually understands this little one.  The peaceful environment, the calm supportive group and the unforced friendships between parents really do help. 

What has happened to our culture when we just don’t allow the time for this?  Is it sad that we have to have a “course” to learn to love? Possibly, but this is wrapped up in so many other reasons to attend baby massage courses that it doesn’t seem quite so desperate.  The benefits of baby massage include help for colic, reflux and trapped wind (I use the word “fart” with great gusto in the classes) and the application of moisturisers for dry skin and eczema. Each session flows with the group, but the facilitator encourages discussions about parenting; from how to handle the in-laws to local breastfeeding friendly cafes. 

Philippa demonstrating the leg massage sequence
Photo Credit: In Your Hands Massage


The discussions are managed carefully to ensure that all parenting styles are accepted and understood.  This is important with a group of parents who may be of different ages, cultures, religions and social economic sectors.  The sessions are quiet (no music, no sensory toys) and parents’ comfort is important. Parents have fallen asleep in sessions – a course leaders’ reward for making a relaxing environment.”

One of Philippa's baby massage classes in action
Photo Credit: In Your Hands Massage

So if you are looking to connect with your baby in this way, then what are the benefits for you both in attending a baby massage course? Well, a course run by an IAIM instructor covers much more than just baby massage. You learn about touch, movement, relaxation, interaction and communication. The course runs for 5 weeks and during that time you learn a new sequence each week which ends in being able to give a full body massage to your baby. It is a fabulous skill to have and I have to say that the sequence I have personally “pulled out of the bag” time and time again along my parenting journey and even now despite Sophia being 6, is the tummy massage sequence. It has been a life saver when one of the girls has been constipated or had trapped wind. And because the routine is fun and engaging, I have found that the giggles that often happen both during and after the routine have had the desired effect of releasing said “trapped” wind and the world has become a happy place once more! I think you get where I’m going with that one ;0)

Another baby massage class with Daddy's too :0)
Photo Credit: In Your Hands Massage

So what are the benefits for you and your baby?

The benefits for baby are:

·           Helping your baby to feel securely attached
·           Helping your baby to feel more loved, valued and respected
·           Reduced crying and emotional distress
·           Increased levels of relaxation and longer sleep
·           Development of body awareness and coordination
·           Relief from wind, colic, constipation and teething discomfort

And the benefits for You are:

·           Feeling closer to your baby
·           Gaining a deeper understanding of your baby's behaviour, crying and body language
·           Providing an enjoyable opportunity for you to spend one-to-one time with your baby
·           Feeling the relaxing effects of giving your baby a massage
·           Increased confidence in your ability to care for and nurture your baby
·           Learning a life-long parenting skill

I highly recommend Baby Massage as a way to bond and connect with your baby, toddler, child or teenager. The wonderful thing about learning a skill like this is that as your child grows you can still use it with them by adapting it to their evolving needs and their age. As they experience growing pains, or if they just need some special one-on-one time with you, massage can bring you both closer together and make the bonds between you stronger, and long lasting. In our ever changing world, that counts for a lot.

The IAIM have instructors all over the world running fabulous baby massage courses. They are all encouraged to further their training on an ongoing basis so are always adding to their skills. For more information about their courses or to find an instructor in your area, take a look at their website www.iaim.org.uk.

For those of you living in the Salisbury and Test Valley area, you won’t come across a more experienced and compassionate instructor than Philippa. She comes highly recommended. Philippa Thain runs “In Your Hands” Baby Massage Courses and also runs short First Aid courses for parents too. You can find out more information about the courses she runs by visiting her website: www.in-your-hands.com and she is also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/inyourhandsbabymassage.


I’ll leave you with this thought:

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch,
a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment,
or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

Leo Buscaglia

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Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read this post. If you’ve liked what you’ve read then I’d love you to follow Sophia’s Choice or subscribe to posts via email so you never miss an update. You can also connect with me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SophiasChoiceUK and follow me on Twitter: @SophiasChoiceUK (www.twitter.com/SophiasChoiceUK ). Until next time.



4 comments:

  1. This looks good! One of my "I want to do this next therapies" I think!

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    1. Well worth looking into Sue :0) The IAIM training is exceptional and very thorough. The whole process comes highly recommended x

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  2. I used baby massage for my little ones. My husband came on the baby massage course with me, he found it amazing for bonding

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    1. Hi Karen - Love it when hubbies come along too and get involved. It's such a special thing to share with your LO xx

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