Massage… more than just relaxation

Personally, I am in love with massage!

I recently completed a 4 week infant massage course at my local recreation centre and I have to say that it was the best money I’ve ever spent. It’s a skill that I will have for his entire life and will be something that we can share forever … or for as long as he will let me.

Massage is a beautiful way to nurture and bond with your baby and now armed with a few techniques to assist with discomfort, illness and fever, I am able to nurture and heal as well.

I am still in awe of the numerous benefits of massage and how much can be achieved from something that looks so simple.  It can help your child to settle, sleep better, reduce crying and relieve problems such as wind, colic, constipation, reflux and eczema.  It even helps reduce post-natal depression. Massage is so much more than just relaxation.

It seems obvious when you think about it; touch is a basic physical and emotional need for humans, just as vital as food. I wont go into the details of what happens when infants are deprived of touch, but I will tell you about all the amazing benefits they get if you put away some quality time to massage them each day.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Reduces crying time  Various research studies on infant massage have shown that there is a significant reduction in overall crying time with infants and toddlers who receive massage.
  • Improves sleep and regulates sleep patterns  Massage increases serotonin levels and regulates melatonin secretion rhythms which helps regulate sleep patterns.
  • Ideal for pre-term infants  Research has shown that infants receiving touch therapy and massage gain weight faster and are discharged earlier than other infants.
  • Enhances emotions and improves mood  Massage increases dopamine levels which are believed to play an important role in regulating anger, aggression, temperature, mood and appetite in addition to other bodily functions.
  • Improves wind, colic, reflux and constipation.  Massage stimulates elimination of waste from the body, can relieve abdominal wind within minutes and speeds the natural process of the nervous system which can assist with reflux.
  • Relieves sinus and chest congestion  Massage helps promote adequate drainage of the sinuses and excess mucus on the chest.
  • Boosts immune system  Research shows that infant massage can positively influence physiological processes and improve immune function.
  • Reduces stress hormone levels in children and their parents  Known as the “stress hormone” cortisol is released during times of stress. Prolonged high levels of cortisol can reduce immunity, impair cognitive performance, and reduce bone density and muscle tissue. Massage measurably decreases cortisol levels in both children and their parents allowing blood pressure, heart rate and digestive functioning and hormonal levels to return to their normal state.
  • Early diagnosis of potential health issues  Parents who massage their infants each day are more likely to notice changes in their child’s physical condition, which may go unnoticed longer with infants who are not receiving massage.
  • Reduces symptoms of Eczema  A UK study showed significant improvement in eczema symptoms with the introduction of massage by parents. Infant massage instructors have also seen improvements first hand with many babies at infant massage classes.
  • Enhances coordination  Studies have shown infant massage improves left/right brain communication which has been suggested to improve intelligence.

With so many wonderful benefits, how could you not love it?

My little pickle has now learnt to understand the permission sequence; which must precede any massage. Asking their permission before you commence a massage is essential and shows them that you respect their bodies and that they have a choice. It may seem silly to ask a newborn or a tiny baby with no verbal communication skills whether he or she ‘would like a massage’ but it’s amazing how they soon learn to understand these cues and can give you a clear yes or no with their noises, movements and eye contact. It took about 5 weeks of commencing massage every day with the same permission sequence before my little pickle learnt not only to understand what I was asking him, but also how to respond to me.

These are some of the response cues for ‘YES’

Lying down relaxed with open arms, good eye contact, eyes wide/bright, smiles or shows expression of joy, cooing, laughing, positive vocalization, playful bouncing of arms and legs, pulling my hands towards his body and reaching for my hands.

These are some of the response cues for ‘NO’

Facial grimacing, crying or fussy behavior, rubbing eyes, pulling on ears, closing eyes, arching of the back and wriggling or twisting of the body, avoiding eye contact by distinctly turning head away, pushing or hitting your hands away from their body or kicking and waving arms in an agitated manner.

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Massaging the feet can assist in reducing fever.

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What oils to use:

I suggest getting a beautiful top quality, organic, pure cold pressed fruit, nut or seed oil [e.g. avocado, almond or sesame oil] which is free from pesticides.  My preference is almond oil.

Pure cold pressed oil is easily absorbed into the skin as opposed to mineral oils, which leave a greasy film over the skin. It is because of this absorption that it is so important that the oil you are using is free from pesticides.

Note 1: whatever oil you use for massage, you need to be happy for your child to ingest it. This recommendation does not apply in reverse. i.e. Just because an oil is edible, does not necessarily make it suitable for massages.

Note 2: caution should be taken if you are aware or concerned of any nut allergies – perhaps advisable to stay away from nut oils. [peanut oil is never recommended for massage].

Note 3: Sesame oil for massage is not the same as the sesame oil for cooking found in the supermarket.

It is essential that you learn how to perform an infant massage, which is quite different from massaging an adult. There are lots of courses available as infant massage is becoming a bit of a trend. Jump online and find out about what’s available in your area. A good quality trainer will ensure you leave understanding all of the benefits of massage, safe positioning, understanding of quality oils, the permission sequence, yes and no cues, specific massage techniques for wind, colic, constipation, sinus relief and fevers. Some trainers/practitioners will also come to your home or mothers group if you want a personalized class.

I cant recommend it highly enough and I’m sure my little pickle will agree.

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