Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Art of Infant Massage

Massage isn’t just for mom and dad anymore. Babies love to be massaged, too. According to new research from the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami in Florida, babies who are massaged regularly sleep more soundly, have stronger immune systems, and are less gassy and colicky than babies who are not. Infant massage is also a great way for parents to spend one-on-one time with their baby, and to create a very special bond.

Infant massage isn’t just something for mom to be involved in either. Unlike breastfeeding, infant massage allows dad to establish a positive paternal bond which many fathers have a difficult time establishing. This positive paternal attachment will continue as the child grows. Not only that, but it will also allow mom that much needed alone time, to shower, to get last minute things done, or just to relax.

You don’t need any special training to learn infant massage. Just choose a space that is safe for baby, ideally a cozy blanket on the floor. Don’t choose your best one, however, as you don’t want to ruin it with lotions or oils. Baby will be in only a diaper, so make sure the room is warm enough that baby will be comfortable. Wash your hands and coat them in a mildly scented lotion or oil, and rub them together so that they will be warm on your baby’s skin. Start at the head with soft gentle strokes, working over the face, chest, tummy, arms, hands, legs, and feet. Next gently turn baby over and massage her back. If baby fusses, you may be stroking too firmly, or she may be too cold. Try lightening your touch and covering her with a light blanket, exposing only the areas which you are massaging.

Infant Massage Strokes:

1. The Butterfly Stoke: This light stroke involves gently trailing your fingers over your baby’s body. It is best used on sensitive areas like the face, and is a great first stroke when introducing massage to your baby.

2. The Twist: This is a light wringing motion is used for massaging baby’s limbs and involves placing your hands side by side, encircling the limb, and turning your hands gently back and forth. Hold baby’s arm or leg softly in your hands and massage by gently moving your hands in opposite directions, moving slowly down the limb.

3. The Squeeze: This is a gentle pressing motion which involves gently sandwiching a parth of baby’s body, such as hands, fingers, feet, and toes, between your thumb and forefinger and pressing and rubbing very lightly.

4. The Effleurage Stroke: This motion involves large firm strokes that sweep the palm of your hand along baby’s skin, exerting very gently pressure. This stroke is ideal for chest, tummy, and back. For ideal results, move your hands in opposite directions.

As baby relaxes under the gentle motion of your hands she will likely drift off to sleep, feeling very secure with your soft gentle touch. Enjoy this special time together. It will most likely become your favorite part of the day.

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