January 30, 2015 – Kathryn Nulf, Bellingham Bulletin
Parents with a new baby at home want to build a connection with their little one, as well as be able to help them when they are being fussy. Infant massage can help with both. Certified Infant Massage Instructor Sheryl White spoke at the Bellingham Library on Jan. 13 about the power of touch and the benefits of infant massage.
White has been educating the public for 15 years on how powerful infant massage can be when done regularly. Infant massage creates a special time for you and your baby each day. Both baby and parent receive benefits during this bonding time, which means it is important for the caregiver to take a few deep breaths and release any tension from her/his own body before practicing infant massage on the baby.
There are over 50 strokes to learn when you massage a baby, and caregivers were able to practice a few of the techniques one on one with their babies during the class. White demonstrated strokes for the legs and feet, techniques for the stomach, and a colic-relief routine.
Infant massage can help soothe babies as well as help them learn how to relax. Massage also deepens bonding; strengthens the digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems; helps relieve the discomfort associated with teething, congestion, emotional stress, gas, and colic; helps the baby to sleep longer and more deeply by releasing stress that builds daily from new experiences; increases the caregiver’s confidence and sensitivity to baby’s cues; makes for an easier time feeding the baby; and improves muscle tone. It can also increase serotonin levels and decrease cortisol levels.
Setting the stage for infant massage is helpful to create a serene environment for both parent and child. It is best to massage babies while they are lying down in a warm environment and under natural light, such as by a window. It’s important to wait 45 minutes after feeding and 60 minutes after solid foods before massaging. Soft relaxing music can be put on before and during the massage. It is best to avoid lullabies or songs with words to avoid distraction. Random relaxing music that is subtle is best. To let the baby know what’s coming, use the same music every time.
White recommends using an oil during infant massage so that there’s no friction on the skin. Her favorite oil is Jojoba oil by HobaCare, which is available at Whole Foods Market (this oil is also safe to leave on the baby’s skin after massage). Place oil (the size of a dime) in your hands and rub hands together to warm. This lets the baby know massage is coming. Never use any oil near the face because the eyes are very sensitive.
It’s important for caregivers to ask the baby for permission before they begin the massage. White pointed out that this shows respect and gives them a cue that massage is coming. Start asking early on so that you teach the baby that they have a choice, and they become familiar with what a healthy touch is and what is not.
Try to create a ritual of the infant massage, such as doing it a few minutes while changing the baby’s diaper, or just before bath time. Try to choose a time when your baby is not too tired or hungry. It should be during a time when you feel relaxed enough to put your distractions aside. The average baby will let you massage them for about five minutes.
To prepare, have these items ready: oil, a towel or soft blanket, extra diapers to use if the baby needs to be changed, a change of clothes to dress your baby after the massage, and soft relaxing music. Parents and caregivers should refrain from infant massage if the baby’s body temperature elevates, or he or she has a chronic medical condition or serious illness.
White is offering the next level of infant massage in a February 10, 11:15 a.m., class at the Bellingham Library. To learn more about White’s work, visit her website at www.babykneads.com.