Touch is perhaps our most profound sense; continuously communicating with the external world. It is through this sensory organ (the external portion of the nervous system) that we experience different types of touch and quickly interpret the messages from them into our reactions with our world, shaping our understanding of reality in the present moment. Through perceiving and interpreting subtle cues which are often ‘felt’ first rather than understood through the thinking mind our intuitive abilities heighten.
From an anthropological perspective and bearing this in mind almost every tribal culture studied document parenting practices which mirror massage along with close physical contact from a primary care giver. Homo sapians are mammals, and like monkeys we are best suited to keeping our young close to feed on demand and provide warmth, love and sustainability through the senses. The primary sense as aforementioned and first to form in the womb is that of touch.
If you think of infant massage in this way – an innate, primitive communication; not a therapy, not a treatment but a means of deeply getting to know your baby, yourself as parents and your journey together- through the senses. You get to know how each other smell, what touch your baby likes, what time of day is best for massage for your baby, what sounds, songs, games and rhymes they like- this interaction lays the blueprint for a life of healthy attachment. Infant massage is all about getting to know each other, more deeply known as bonding . Bonding is a two way process of communication. Through baby watching, baby language, baby cues and movement they teach us.
International Association of Infant Massage
Infant Massage is not a new age fad, it is found in many cultures around the world, passed down mother to daughter- mother to daughter. Vimala McClure, the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage (www.iaim.net) established the global organisation after a life changing trip to India in the mid 1970’s where she lived and worked in Mother Teresa’s baby hospital in Calcutta. Here the women would come in daily to the orphanage and massage and sing to the babies. The result was profound. Vimala noticed that the massaged babies slept better, were content longer and developed quicker than the other babies. These babies were listened to deeply and they responded. On returning home to Colorado Vimala had her first baby who had colic, she used the techniques she had learnt from the women of India and with a blend of Swedish massage, reflexology and yoga techniques she devised a programme with a nurse, Audrey Downes that is now in over 50 countries worldwide. The organisation is called the IAIM.
I am often asked as a midwife and baby massage instructor if massage can ‘fix’ crying, or if it ‘spoils’ babies through the old adage that the baby is manipulating you. No. Simply to both. As a gimmick to stop a baby crying massage does not work- this is not the intention and even if it was it wouldn’t work. Massage allows you to understand your baby, their cries and their needs, it won’t stop them crying or provide a quick fix response to keep them quiet. In regards to spoiling (a term which first came about in the 1950’s from Dr Spock’s book widely disputed today) research shows that the more a baby’s cues are responded to quickly the less a baby cries- this means by picking babies up, cuddling them, rocking them and letting them know they are loved. You cannot spoil a baby with love. Neuroscience shows us what our intuition as mothers knows innately, that loving touch and interaction lays healthy foundations for social interaction and emotional response. This isn’t airy fairy, this is science.
Massage helps colicky pains, growing pains, teething, weight gain for premmies and muscle tone for babies with hypertonia or hypertonia. It aids development in every sense; socially, emotionally, physically and psychologically. It enables neurological pathways to be laid down which create empathy for others and a sense of self which if not laid can result in addictive patterns and outlets later on in life. Infant massage is incredible but most of all it opens deep lines of communication. Research shows that infant massage and the practice of it by postnatally depressed mothers reduces depression, encouraging bonding and attachment to develop which may not have done thus far. It eases the emotions which come with disability, with the loss of an old life, of a relationship which was not what one thought. Massage is grounding for babies and parents. Anchoring. Primitive. So much more than the physical.
Classes and Instructor Trainings with Forty Weeks
Parent and baby classes are run one morning or afternoon a week for five weeks in Hampshire UK and Cork, Ireland. Certified Infant Massage Instructors (CIMI) teach a blend of Indian massage, Swedish massage, reflexology and baby yoga in a structured routine. We work with relaxation techniques, cover parenting topics and massage oils to use and not use on your baby’s skin, discussion topics, theory of massage and attachment and bonding, crying relating to massage and a tea and coffee afterwards. For colic or babies with additional needs, specific strokes and adaptations can be taught one to one Please contact me here to discuss specific situations for you or your baby.
Instructor trainings are run in Ireland throughout the year, see here for upcoming dates. We hold in-house trainings for organisations and health professionals and open trainings for mixed groups of different backgrounds. Please contact me directly to discuss. For trainings in other countries please see the international website at www.iaim.net or contact me here