Nothing is sweeter than soft, smooth, squishy baby skin. Most moms have heard about infant massage and its ability to soothe. However, there's much more to it than you'd think, and the wrong methods can stimulate instead of relax -- oops!
Tessa Pickard is an expert in Infant Massage and talked with me about her training and some of the reasons to consult trained teachers when it comes to the baby rub-down.
What kind of training do you have in infant massage?
I'm a Certified Infant Massage Teacher (CIMT). I was trained by Tina Allen through the Liddle Kidz Foundation.
Why would someone need to be trained -- isn't rubbing down the baby pretty self-explanatory?
Sure, any touch you can offer your baby is beneficial, as long as it's healthy touch. Which, of course, I teach in my class as well. There is a difference between healthy and unhealthy touch, and it's important for us and our children to learn. Along with that, we also teach respect of touch. (Remember how annoying it was to walk through the mall and have strangers touching us when we were pregnant? They missed that class!)
Of course, I teach more than that; I actually teach you how to massage your baby, too! There are different ways to massage your baby. Certain massage strokes can actually stimulate your baby, while others will help her relax. Learning the differences will come in handy when you're trying to get her to go to sleep at night.
What are some of the benefits of infant massage?
For parents that attend an infant massage class, you can learn everything from the basics of infant massage to little tricks and secrets to help calm your baby when he's feeling fussy or not quite himself.
Touch is an amazing thing. We've heard how breastfeeding helps release oxytocin, a relaxing hormone. Well, so can massage -- in both baby AND in the caregiver! So if you're breastfeeding and giving your baby a massage, it can help your body release oxytocin, prepare for let-down, and stimulate your milk production. If you aren't breastfeeding, raising your oxytocin levels in both your baby and yourself will help with that breastfeeding bond you hear so much about.
And that's just ONE of many, many, many benefits of infant massage. It also increases and improves communication, development, relaxation, sleep, and more!
Is there anything people shouldn't do?
Don't use baby lotion on your child! WHAT? Yep, you heard me. No baby oils, lotions, or anything you wouldn't eat. If you want to use oils, use natural oil like extra-virgin olive oil. It's pure, natural, and generally non-allergenic, and if the baby puts it in her mouth, she's not going to poison herself.
Give his little body some time to heal after birth. Wait about six weeks. He's pretty swollen after birth and, lets face it, he just went through a pretty traumatic event. Don't massage your baby until his umbilical cord falls off. If he's been circumcised and you're planning on massaging a naked baby, give that time to heal as well. All of this falls under the "six-week rule."
If you have a special needs child, you should talk to your doctor before starting infant massage. A trained infant massage teacher will know this and discuss this with you first, and will usually have a form for you to fill out and take to your doctor for a release. If you had a preemie or NICU baby, touch may move a little slowly. Don't get discouraged. Work with your CIMT and understand that things progress at the rate your baby is ready. Massage is about kindness and love, not pressure.
What would you recommend people who are just now learning about infant massage should do to learn more?
Infant massage is interesting. Some offer it as a service, where you can take your child to them and they will work on your child for you (just like when you go for a massage). Someone like me, on the other hand, does it a little differently. I will hold a class or come to your home and teach you how to massage your child. Either one is fine, of course, depending on your lifestyle and what you're comfortable with. Whichever you do, you're trusting your infant in the hands of someone else. Check the background of whomever it is that you're working with, and ask questions. If they're certified, they will have no problem answering your questions and understanding and will be happy to work with you.
To find someone in your area, search for Internationally Certified Infant Massage Teachers (CIMT™) as well as Internationally Certified Pediatric Massage Therapists (CPMT™).
Image via Tessa Pickard