Engaging Families, Practical Strategies

Baby Massage: Essential Tool for Practitioners – Part I

“Massaging your baby is a very special way to let them know they are safe, loved and understood. A daily massage lays the foundation for a lifetime of self esteem for your baby and good communication between the two of you.”

-Vilma McClure Founder, The International Association of Infant Massage Instructors.

The first communication a baby receives is through his skin. Baby massage is one of the most nurturing things a parent can do for her baby and the results will benefit both the caregiver and child for years to come. Skin to skin contact is often taken for granted, but yet it is such a simple and powerful way of bonding with baby, and creates a foundation for trust.

Benefits of Baby Massage

As a certified “Baby’s First Massage” therapist, a pediatric occupational therapist and a mom, I have discovered first-hand the benefits of baby massage to be invaluable. In just ten minutes a day, baby massage improves blood flow, strengthens immunity and develops bonding with the caregiver. Massage helps to relieve colic; it relaxes the baby, and enables deeper, more restful sleep. Studies show that premature babies who are massaged have greater weight gain and less post-natal complications than babies who are not massaged. “Baby’s First Massage” is designed so that all of the strokes are done from head to toe. This is important because that is the same direction that the neurons are myelinating. As a result, massage helps the neurological system to develop. How powerful is that?! By offering consistent loving, soothing touch, we are helping our babies reach important developmental milestones! Additionally, we are instilling in our children a whole host of positive things, including: body awareness, motor skills, balance, and sensory processing.

Using Baby Massage in Early Intervention

Baby massage is an essential component for practitioners to add to our repertoire because it is so versatile. The benefits are significant for babies who are delayed, as well as for those who are developing typically. If you are a practitioner, and you haven’t already added massage to your therapeutic strategy, it is time to give it a try. I have found the best way to help a baby is through the parent or caregiver. When practitioners can empower parents with the beautiful art of baby massage, the baby will benefit from it on a daily basis. Parents will love this intimate time with their little one!

Baby Massage is So Simple

All you need is two clean hands, a warm blanket and a baby. Lotion is optional. I prefer to use lotion over oils and I always recommend a lotion that has been used on the baby before so you know it won’t irritate the baby’s skin. Practitioners, if you are demonstrating baby massage for a family, allow the parent to actually do the strokes while you talk her through it. That way the parent learns the strokes by actually performing them on her baby, and she also senses how the baby is responding and can adjust accordingly.

As I continue writing in this series, I will explain some of the strokes in detail. If you are interested in beginning baby massage in the meantime, start with some gentle, light pressure strokes right on the baby’s skin, moving from hip to ankle, neck to waist and shoulder to wrist, always in the head-to-toe direction. Pay close attention to the baby’s cues and respect the baby’s boundaries. Keep an eye out as most maternity hospitals offer classes on baby massage. Parents and practitioners can also learn massage through DVDs, apps, online videos or books.

If you have not yet integrated baby massage into your therapy practice, what information would be helpful to have as you consider it?

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Aimee Ketchum is a pediatric occupational therapist, licensed baby massage instructor, yoga instructor, and mom. She is also the founder of Aimee’s Babies, LLC, a baby and child development company. Please visit Aimee’s website www.aimeesbabies.com where you can find baby massage and developmental exercise DVDs, downloadable videos and apps. Aimee lives with her husband and two daughters in Lititz, Pennsylvania. You can email her at aimeek@ptd.net, She’d love to hear from you!

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3 Comments to “Baby Massage: Essential Tool for Practitioners – Part I”

  1. Aimee, This is a great “primer” article to introduce baby massage! I agree that one of the most important roles that we play in early intervention is to empower the parents and/or caregivers! I look forward to your future posts! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise about baby massage.

    • I’m glad you liked Aimee’s article, Katherine! I agree too that empowering parents is a goal of early intervention. Imagine how much more effective teaching parents to use baby massage would be compared to just the interventionist using it on a visit once per week!

  2. Hi Aimee, I like how you make it sound so easy. I had no idea there were so many baby massage benefits. My baby has colic and it’s really stressing me out so am looking for ways to ease it for her. I love your idea and am going to find a therapist to take us through the first massage. Thanks a lot.

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