Baby massage is a holistic approach to baby health and child rearing. Infant massage combines the tender touch of a nurturer with specific movements and techniques designed to improve the health of any child from infants to toddlers and beyond.
Baby Massage has a history of over a few hundred years in China. It is a highly specialized practice. It treats baby:
and many other baby illnesses without any medication or needles. Since baby's acupressure points are different from adult, and their bodies grow so quickly; baby massage is more effective for a baby who is under three years old.
Nan is specialized in Baby Massage. She has over 15 years of experience. Nan graduated from Guangzhou Traditional Chinese Medicine University in China in 1984 and began her practice in Guangdong Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in the same year. In 1987, she received her Baby Massage Training in Shandong Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital from the famous Acupuncturist, Sun Cheng Nan. She set up the first and the only one Baby Massage Clinics in the Guangdong province and successfully treated many children. She was interviewed by the Guangzhou Daily and her story was published in the paper. Under her professional care, 98% of her baby patients were treated successfully.
The power of Touch via Infant Massage
The history of massage can be traced well back to ancient times. people then believed that one way of promoting health and preventing diseases was by rubbing, stroking and kneading the body. Ancient references to massage can be found in Japanese, persian, Chinese as well as Roman and Greek cultures.
Some benefits of massage are more well-known than others. Most would know the wonderful pain-relieving effects of massage on tight, tense and achy muscles. Enhanced blood circulation, as visible through skin coloration, may occur through massage. The effects of massage in children have been explored since a few decades ago. Scientists, physicians and educators have all raised questions concerning the importance of touch in infant development, for older children and even adolescents.
Much research on the relationship between touch and development has been conducted. These first took place in laboratories using animals. One study was conducted on albino rats who had their thyroid glands removed. The results showed that one group of these rats which were held and stroked had better survival, were gentler, friendlier and more relaxed. The other group of rats who were only fed and had their cages cleaned were apprehensive, high-strung, tense, resistant, timid and exhibited fear and rage by biting. Another well-known study was conductor on newborn monkeys which were given a choice of a wire mother substitute which provided food and another furry cloth mother substitute without food. The results were fascinated many people as these monkeys all chose and clung tightly onto the cloth mother substitute which was not providing any food.
Benefits of Massage
More recent research studies actually explored the importance of touch in the development of infants with special needs such as low birth weight and prematurity, drug exposure, AIDS, physical disabilities and even mental difficulties. The results all demonstrated the powerful effects which massage can provide. For instance, infants with failure to thrive can have all the food they need but continue to deteriorate without any input of emotional care and contact comfort. For the child who has yet to develop any form of communication, the sense of touch becomes a crucial means of communication and bonding to the carers. Dr Leboyer, a researcher in infant massage studies, has commented that " Being touched and caressed, being massaged, is food for the infants; food as necessary as minerals, vitamins and proteins". positive physiological effects of massage that have been documented include the improvement of venous and lymphatic circulation, normalizing of the gastro-intestinal function, enhancement of body awareness, relaxation in an irritable child as well as arousal in a lethargic child.
The infant-mother attachment, in most cases, is an infant's first real social experience and is the beginning of social and emotional development. Several components of the massage experience are believed to help facilitate attachment and bonding. Some of these components include smell, skin-to-skin contact, smiling and soothing sounds as well as eye contact. Many parents find that massage helps them feel closer to their children. parents generally feel that massage is a positive experience with their child, even when other caring experiences may have been less positive.
preparing for Massage
Infants often offer signals, both strong and subtle, to indicate that they are ready for interaction. These verbal and non-verbal cues, also known as engagement signs, are the infant's means of communication.
Some subtle engagement signs are:
Facial alerting signs such as widening of the eyes and brightening of the face
Seeking eye contact
Hands open with fingers relaxed
Stronger signs include:
Verbal cues of giggling, babbling or talking
Sustained eye-to-eye contact
At the same time, infants also offer cues of disengagement, which indicate a need for a break in interaction. You may need to postpone the massage, modify your techniques or stop the massage if you observe disengagement signs.
Disengagement cues include:
Whimpering, yawning or hiccoughing
Facial grimacing, frowning or pouting
Eyes turning away from you, closing tightly or blinking rapidly
Back arching and pulling away
Whining and fussing
Choking or vomiting
When your baby is demonstrating engagement cues and mummy has some time to spare, it may be a good time for a massage. Very often, after a bath may be ideal as baby is already undressed. However, massage may be performed through the baby's clothing. Always ensure that the environment is warm for the duration of the massage, especially if baby would be undressed. You may also set the mood by using soft lighting and gentle music for greater relaxation.
Commercially available infant massage oils, creams or lotions such as Johnson and Johnson Baby Oil and Origins Bare Hugs may be used as lubricants. It is important that the lubricants used may be safe if ingested as the massage experience often facilitates baby's own natural exploration with increased mouthing of the hands. pure natural unscented edible oils such as olive oil for cooking may also have the added advantage of enhancing mummy's natural smell for a deeper bonding experience.
Some basic strokes:
Face: Generally, massage oils or creams are not necessary when massaging the face. Apply horizontal strokes across the face starting from midline and finishing at the side of the face. Commence from the forehead, slowly moving down to the cheeks and finishing at the chin.
Chest: Horizontal strokes may also be applied on the chest along the lines of the ribs commencing from midline and finishing at the sides. This is known as the 'Open Book' stroke. Another popular stroke, the 'Heart Stroke', involves making the outline of a heart shape on baby's chest, an expression of mummy's love for your precious little one.
Abdomen: Massaging over the abdomen may help to relieve colic and constipation in a baby. Abdominal strokes are always performed in a clockwise manner, according to the direction of movement of our intestinal contents. The very popular 'I Love You' stroke involves 'I' - a vertical stroke downwards on baby's left belly. The second stroke, indicating 'Love' is an inverted 'L' involving a horizontal stroke from baby's top right belly across to the left and a vertical stroke downwards to baby's left bottom belly. Finally, the 'You' stroke is an inverted 'U' commencing from baby's bottom right belly, moving above baby's belly button and finishing at baby's bottom left belly.
Legs: Gently milk the limb down from the hip to the foot, maintaining skin contact throughout the massage for the leg. This stroke, also commonly known as 'Indian Milking', promotes relaxation in a baby. Knead around the ankles, the sole of the foot and apply small strokes to each individual toe. Complete all the strokes for one leg before proceeding to the other leg.
Arms: The strokes are similar for the arm as for the leg. Gentle milking down the arm from the shoulder to the hand promotes relaxation. Follow this by gentle kneading to the palm and small strokes to each individual finger. Complete all strokes for one arm before proceeding to the other arm.
Back: With your baby lying on his/her tummy, apply long firm strokes from the baby's neck all the way down to baby's bottom. You may also gently knead along the two sides of the spine using circular strokes to relax the paraspinal muscles.
Now that you've been equipped with this information, it's time to spend some quality time of deep bonding with your little one through a meaningful session of massage!
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