History and Benefits of Infant Massage

The history of massage goes back thousands of years ago to China at about 2700 BC. Egyptian tomb drawings in 2500 BC showed massage therapy and were the pioneers for reflexology. India had the first known written massage therapy traditions around 1500 BC, though the practice may have actually originated around 3000 BC or earlier. In the early 1800s Swedish doctor Per Henril Ling developed the “Swedish Movement System”, which is regarded as the foundation to Swedish massage. Today the Swedish massage is one of most common types of massage practiced in the western hemisphere, as well as the Japanese massage practice of Shiatsu.

In the early 1970s, Vimala McClure (author of Infant Massage, A Handbook for Loving Parents) brought the art of infant massage to the United States after working in an orphanage in India.  There she observed a 12 year old girl at the orphanage go around and massage all the babies. Even though these children suffered from improper nutrition they were thriving, and Vimala attributed that to the massage they received every day.

She brought these methods back home with her and later massaged her own children when she had them. She would document the experience and do much research on the effects of touch on newborns. Not only did she write the book aforementioned, using Indian and Swedish massage strokes along with the principles of reflexology and yoga, but she is the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), with headquarters in Sweden. The program expanded internationally in 1992 and there are currently over 30 chapters in over 70 countries!

So why massage your child? The list of physical, emotional, and mental benefits for you and your child are many, but here are some of the top benefits of infant massage:

  • Helps with infant and parent bonding/attachment (especially helpful for new fathers or mothers who’ve had a traumatic or unexpected birth experience)
  • Relief for gas and colic symptoms
  • Relief for teething pains
  • Helps mothers deal with post partum depression and anxiety
  • Promotes better sleep
  • Helps parents learn about their baby’s needs and desires
  • Parents feel a connection with other parents going through the same things as they are
  • Facilitates body awareness
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves skin condition
  • Helps baby to feel loved and nurtured
  • Helps digestion
  • Relaxation for parents and baby
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Balances respiration
  • Helps with waste elimination
  • Helps to build parents’ and baby’s self-esteem
  • Pleasurable experience
  • Stimulates production of Oxytocin (hormone produced during massage that be useful as a pain reliever, has a calming effect, reduce stress, and enhances the bonding process)

These benefits can be continued for many years to come, as you can (and should) continue to massage your child as they grow. It can be just as enjoyable (and even easier) as your child grows, and they can tell you which strokes they like and don’t like. And of course they will lie still unlike babies who are on the move and toddlers who don’t like sitting still longer than 2.3 seconds!

Infant massage as I was trained is to be taught on infants under 1 year old, or under 7 years old for children with any type of special needs (including children on the autism spectrum or suffering from sensory processing disorder). But I promise you that children of all ages love to be massaged! In fact during my certification process to be able to bring this wonderful service to parents like yourself, I often practiced on my own children. There was a line up of my children waiting with open arms (literally) for their turn! They gave me the specifics of which areas they wanted massaged if I told them there wasn’t time to do it all. It was also interesting to note that it differed for each of them, showing me that each area had a purpose and that some areas would be more appealing than others depending on the child.

For those living locally in the Lehigh Valley, I offer an awesome 5 week course where each week I teach a classroom full of no more than 8 families (I want to keep the teacher/family ration low). I will introduce new massage strokes each week, as well as additional information such as how to ask your child for permission, how to align yourself and breathe before and during the process, how to read your baby’s behavioral cues, oils to use and not use, how to continue massaging your child as they grow, and songs and touch games to use. We will also have a new discussion topic each week, including things such as sleep, breast/bottle feeding, introducing solids, developmental milestones, and anything else parents want to discuss. Massage oil and handouts are given each week, and there’s a graduation celebration at the end of the 5 weeks!

If you’re not in the Lehigh Valley, or prefer a more private setting, I also offer one-on-one sessions over a 3 week period. I will either conduct a video consultation with you or in-home sessions for those that are local. In these we cover the same information as in the 5 week course, but we’re able to speed things up a bit since it’s one-on-one. It’s a great way for parents to reap the benefits without a group setting!

While I’d love for you to attend a class or purchase a private session, what’s important is that you massage your child. It’s such a rewarding activity to do with your child or children! After my last class ended, one mom commented this, “I loved this class! First, it’s the only class I had seen where I could take my child under 6 months. For me I am away from all family. It was so nice to be able to ask questions and get answers from moms in a group. But the best part was massaging my baby! I have to bottle feed, and although for us that is a time for bonding, to be able to touch him and bond this way with him is truly special. I get to look into his eyes and comfort him in a new way. It also has taught me to calm down, relax and breathe during this time too.”  ~Mary H.

To learn more about or register for my Mommy/Daddy & Me Infant Massage classes or private sessions, please go to the Infant Massage Sessions page. From there you can sign up for a 5 week course that best fits your needs or Contact Me about a private session.

2 replies
  1. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    That’s GREAT you to infant Massage! I took a course when I was in massage school . Of course babies can benefit from Massage just like adults do. You made good key points and I agree! Thankyou for sharing! 😁

    Reply

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