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Infant Massage - The loving hands of an adult (Part 1: Introduction)

on Sun, 24/07/2016 - 01:24


Play has many different aspects. It can be messy, creative, moving, musically, in the outdoor OR it can be through touch. This is probably the most intimate way of being together with a small child: (infant)massage. In massaging a baby ,we adults release our love hormon (oxytocin) so that we can “listen” better to what this little person is telling us.

Infantmassage  is a loving, relaxing and playful way of being together with your baby.  I call it "The ‘Touch Talk’: speaking through your hands to baby’s body, heart and soul".

Massaging an infant (0-1 years old) is creating a space where a baby can express itself and where we adults can hear it speak because we are in silence. In these moments we slow down and become one with our child.

Touching a child comes naturally for parents or caregivers. When I ask parents if they ever massaged their children before I usually hear that they already sing and do a tickling-game on baby’s belly or foot while changing diaper or after bathing time. On the other hand I also hear that they are insecure how to massage their child and if their child is open for that.

The most asked questions about infant massage are

When can I start massaging a baby?

How strong can the pressure be on a baby’s body?

What are the benefits of infantmassage for a baby?

How do I know if my baby likes the touching?

1. When do I start with infant massage

You can start gently touching a baby from birth. The ‘resting hands’ of a mom or dad can guide a baby gently into his body.
In the following months,  when baby is rapidly growing a massage can make baby's day easier. Infant massage has, especially in the beginning period of life, the power of being a natural boost for baby's immune system, because:

It stimulates a better sleepingpattern

It stimulates the senses

It improves the quality of the skin

Blood will circulate free after

Takes away stress hormones as cortisol

Gives space to breath

Relieves small pains in belly, teeth, nose (in case of a cold)

When a baby grows it probably not lay still anymore during a massage. Between 6 and 12 months the drive of a baby to move becomes his highest goal. Baby wants to learn to walk! At that point doing a massage asks more creativity from an adult. You could use small songs or nursery rhymes combined with handplay to create intimate playmoments. 

A massage for older baby’s can be very stimulating:

to make baby aware of the power of his own body that will lead him to indipendency

for the development of social emotional or cognitive skills. There is silence to explain and to be understood. Adults could insert playful activities during massage moments as for example a peek a boo game. 

Massaging doesn’t need to stop at baby’s 1st birthday. Every age or personal situation is special and needs a bit of patience from our side! In the end it’s not only about the child, but how we, grown ups, manage to enter in synchronization with the child. I think that massaging a toddler, child or adololescent is just as intens and beautiful as massaging a baby. Also premature born baby’s, high sensitive or handicaped children benefit a lot from massage. Bigger children will love to massage an adult person, or a smaller sister / brother, a lovely way of building up compassion and respect for another person.

Massaging mamma

Toddler foot massage

Incy wincy spider massage

2. How strong can the pressure be on a baby’s body

Try to stroke yourself and see what you like, this is a good measurement for baby also.

3. What are the benefits of infantmassage for a baby

The different kind of strokes help baby’s body to relax, to stimulate, to relief or to interact with the hands of the parent or caregiver. 

These strokes are developed by Vimala mcClure, the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage. Used in combination with eachother they form a complete method of intens physical contact between parents and their baby’s. The different strokes are done on several bodyparts  and are in perfect balance to eachother: legs/feet ; belly; chest ; arm/hands; face and back.

We distinguish:

Indian Massage: releases tension

Swedish Massage: stimulates the bloodfluss towards the heart. A famous swedish technique is the ‘I love you’ done on belly stimulating digestive processes.

Reflexology: wakes up the meridianes in the feet

Yoga exercises: keep muscles flexible.

For baby’s with special needs, premature born, handicaped, high sensitive, baby’s suffering from colics there have been developed particular strokes and or techniques, as the 'Resting Hands'.

Resting Hands are similar to a warm blanket. Parents or caregivers put their hands on a baby’s bodypart and reassure the baby that they are present. It is proved that this method has an enormous effect on premature baby’s. They could be dismissed from the hospital sooner and would gain faster in weight and length.

Resting hands


Baby Yoga (picture 'Giocare con mio bambino')

4. How do I know if my baby likes the touching

By looking at it's  bodylanguage and interpretating his cues.
The best cue is the look on a child’s face after a massage, then you know this is why I do it! Read all about babycues HERE.

An example of a toddler massage and looking at body language
You can see the child changes expression and relaxes after a while!
(This was a special situation, she just stayed with her dad 6 days, doing a massage helped her and me to come in connection again) 

This article makes part of a series : 'Infant massage - the loving hands of an adult'

Part 1 : Introduction

Part 2 : Benefits

Part 3 : Reading baby's cues

Part 4 : The set up for an infant massage

Part 5 : The I Love You Massage , a practical massage to avoid Tummy Trouble

Inspirational resources

> Vimala McClure: "Infantmassage - a handbook for loving parents"

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