Friday, May 10, 2013

Life Lesson Month of May: Blog 2- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

Although I normally only work two days a week (while you are at preschool), recently I took a four day long training on infant massage.  It turned out to be one of the most rewarding classes I have ever taken (but given where I am in life, that makes sense).  I only wish I had my new knowledge three years ago when you were born or four years ago when Kyle was in the NICU.  As I became a certified instructor, I came home and practiced on you… and even at your age of three, you and I had more time to connect together before bedtime (and you slept soooo good). 

Life Lessons Learned #10: Never underestimate the power of touch.

Here is what I learned as I became certified to teach infant massage to new parents:

Bonding is the establishment of an emotional relationship.  In the case of infant massage, this relationship is between the baby and his/her parents.  Sometimes, bonding isn’t spontaneous and needs to be learned (especially in cases where the moms or dads have been victims of sexual or emotional abuse and touch was not a positive experience for them).  Or perhaps that bonding is delayed due to adoption, depression, drug and/or alcohol abuse, having a special needs baby, financial stress, or perhaps it was an unwanted pregnancy, or the parents had a premature baby that needed time in the NICU.  But even in those cases where parent-baby bonding is instantaneous, that connection still needs to be nurtured.  Touch is the best way to forge that attachment. 

Being purposeful in teaching massage techniques by pointing out bonding benefits makes the experience more apparent and helps the parents become more aware of the goals.  Instructors should tell parents about the benefits of skin-to-skin contact, creating routine, spending time with their infant, increasing the baby’s immune system, relieving teething pain, and aiding colic and gas (all of these good practices are enhanced by massage).  Things like making eye contact and understanding the baby’s cues will form that attachment faster.  Parents will understand their babies better and be less frustrated and relaxed themselves. Massage is beneficial for both the parents and the baby.

For those working parents who put their children in daycare, massage is a way to connect with your baby after a long and stressful day.  It enables you to spend time with your child (with no other outside stimuli) and focus only on the baby.  Massage allows for love, attention, and little stress- all qualities that will enable a baby to thrive and will prepare him or her for situations later on in life.

Massage, facilitating bonding, allows for the child to trust and learn as well. By understanding routine and anticipation, a child will know and be able to communicate through cues his/her wants with regard to the therapy.  The more words a mother says to the child (through nursery rhymes, songs, and explanation) throughout the duration of the massage will further the vocabulary of that baby into his or her toddler years and beyond.

For premature babies in the NICU, research shows that massage allows them to be released up to five days sooner and increases weight gain.  Premature babies need to save their energy to develop and grow. Those babies who become disorganized, over-active, and over-stimulated can’t properly do that.  Massage helps calm them. It’s also a way for parents to do something for their little ones, as a parent can feel very helpless in the NICU (I know that first-hand).

Ellie, learn the techniques for infant massage when you have a baby.  You will cherish the time that you have with your little one, and knowing that you are doing something so healthy for them is such a rewarding feeling.

I love you Bean and thank you for letting me use you to practice on!

P.S. As an instructor, we teach parents to always ask their infant permission before they begin to massage.  It gets parents into the habit of teaching their children that they have a choice to be touched and it’s good practice for children to understand they have the right to say no.

1 comment:

  1. Love your encouragement on learning massage. Your blogs are so interesting and I always look forwar to what you or your Mom have to say. I think you have done a great job.