Why Infant Massage?
Infant massage is a parent tradition within many ancient cultures that has been re-discovered and adapted for parents and babies around the world. Research conducted through the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine confirms the importance of a secure environment and nurturing touch in the healthy growth, development and maturation of children. According to Vimala McClure, author of Infant Massage, A Handbook for Loving Parents, “Infant massage is an ancient art that connects you deeply with the person who is your baby, and helps you to understand your baby’s particular nonverbal language and respond with love and respectful listening. It empowers you as a parent, for it gives you the means by which you become an expert on your own child.”
Numerous other studies have also shown the many developmental benefits of positive contact as part of baby’s early life. Infant massage is one of the most natural and pleasant methods of providing this early nurturing contact.
What better gift could you give your baby in just 15 minutes of your time?
Benefits of Infant Massage
Documented benefits of Infant Massage
Wilmington University's Mary Kay Keller Discusses Infant Massage
Improved Sleep Patterns
- Infants experience improved sleep immediately after being massaged.
Argal KN, Gupta A, Pushkarna R, Bhargava SK, Faridi MMA, Prabhu MK, Effects of massage & use of oil on growth, blood flow & sleep pattern in infants. India J Med Res. 2000:112, 212-217
- Infants who were massaged before bedtime adjusted to a more favorable rest-activity cycle by the age of 8 weeks and produced more melatonin, a sleep regulator, during the night by the age of 12 weeks.
Ferber SG, Laudon M, Kuint J, Weller A, Zisapel N. Massage therapy and sleep-wake rhythms in the neonate. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 2002:23(6):410-415
- Infants and toddlers with sleep onset problems were given daily massages by their parents for 15 minutes prior to bedtime for one month. The massaged babies showed fewer sleep delay behaviors and had a shorter latency to sleep onset by the end of the study. During the day, babies were more awake, alert and active.
Field, T., & Hernandez-Reif, M., (2001). Sleep problems in infants decrease following massage therapy. Early Child Development and Care, 168, 95-104.
Reduction of Stress
- Cortisol levels, a stress indicator, were significantly lower after infant massage.
Acolet D, Modi N, Giannakoulopoulos X, et al. Changes in plasma cortisol and catecholamine concentrations in response to massage in preterm infants. Arch Dis Child. 1993;68:29-31.
- Massaged pre-term infants showed fewer stress behaviors and less activity during a five-day study.
Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M. & Field, T. (2007). Preterm infants show reduced stress behaviors and activity after 5 days of massage therapy. Infant Behavior & Development, 30,557-61.
Enhanced Motor Development
- Premature infants experienced enhanced motor development and improved Brazelton neonatal behavioral assessment scores.
Dieter JNI. Emory ED. Supplemental stimulation of premature infants: a treatment model. J Pediatr Psychol. 1997;22(3):281-295.
- Massage of premature infants successfully modulated infant state.
White-Traut RC, Pate CM, Modulating infant state in premature infants. J Pediatr Nurs. 1987;2(2):96-101.
- Infants born of HIV+ mothers who were massaged three times daily had significantly more optimal scores on the Brazelton neonatal behavioral assessment, including habituation, motor, range of state, autonomic stability, excitability, and stress behaviors.
Scafidi F, Field T, Massage therapy improves behavior in neonates born to HIS-positive mothers, J Pediatr Psychol. 1996;21(6):889-897.
Improved Interaction in Family
- Fathers who used massage techniques with their infants experienced increased self-esteem as parents. The babies greeted their fathers with more eye contact, smiling, vocalizing and reaching responses. The fathers were more expressive and showed more enjoyment and more warmth during floor-play interactions with their infants.
Cullen, D., Field, T., Escalona, A., & Hartshorn, K. (2000). Father-infant interactions are enhanced by massage therapy. Early Child
Help for Depressed Babies and Mothers
- Massaged babies of depressed, adolescent mothers gained more weight, had improved sociability and soothability temperament scores, and experienced greater decreased in urinary stress hormones. They cried less and had lower stress levels.
Development and Care, 164, 41-47. Field T, Grizzle N, Scafidi F, Abrams S, Richarson S. Massage therapy for infants of depressed mothers. Infant Behav Dev 1996;19;109-114.
- Learning the practice of infant massage by mothers may be an effective treatment for facilitating mother-infant interaction in mothers with postnatal depression. Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scores improved for the mothers who learned massage, as did their video-taped mother-baby interactions.
Onozawa K, Glover V, Adams D, Modi N, Kumar RC. Infant massage improves mother-infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression.
- Infants of depressed mothers who experienced massage therapy (compared to infants who were rocked) spent more time in active alert and active awake states, cried less, and had lower salivary cortisol levels, suggesting lower stress. The massage-therapy infants gained more weight, showed greater improvement on emotionality, sociability, and soothability temperament dimensions, and had greater decrease in urinary stress catecholamines/hormones (norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol).
Field, T., Grizzle, N., Scafidi. F., Abrams, S., Richardson, S., Kuhn, C., & Schanberg, S. (1996). Massage therapy for infants of depressed mothers. Infant Behavior and Development, 19, 107-112.
Increased Weight Gain for Premature Infants
- Premature infants that were massaged regularly had higher daily weight gain, increased motor activity, and better Brazelton neonatal behavioral assessment scores. They had a better conversion of calories to weight gain.
Field TM, Schanberg SM, Scafidi F, et al. Tactile/kinesthetic stimulation effects on preterm neonates. Pediatrics. 1986:77 (5):654-658.
Phillips RB, Moses HA. Skin hunger effects on preterm neonates. Infant Toddler Intervention. 1996;(1);39-46.
Helpful for Cocaine-exposed babies
- Massage cocaine-exposed infants averaged a 28% greater weight gain over a 10 day period, had fewer stress behaviors, improved orientation behaviors and better motor scores.
Wheeden A, Scafidi FA, Field, T., Ironson G, Valdeon C, Bandstra E. Massage effects on cocaine-exposed preterm neonates. Dev. Behav Pediatr. 1993:14(5);318-322.
- Cocaine exposed newborns had fewer postnatal complications and showed increased weight gain, and better performance on the Brazelton Neonatal Behavior Assessment Scale (particularly on the motor scale), and less stress behaviors following 10 days of massage.
Scafidi F, Field T, Wheeden A, Schanberg S, Kuhn C, Symanski R, Zimmerman E, Bandstra ES. Cocaine exposed preterm neonates show behavioral and hormonal differences. Pediatrics 1996:97:851-855.
Safe for Medically Fragile Infants
- A parent-trained touch massage protocol for medically fragile infants in a level III neonatal intensive care unit was both feasible and sage. Babies remained physiologically stable and had no change in agitation/pain scores.
Livingston K, Beider S, Kant AG, et al. Touch and Massage for Medically Fragile Infants. 2007.
- A greater increase in temperature was noted for pre-term infants receiving massage therapy even though incubator portholes remained open during the massage.
Diego, M.A, Field T. & Hernandezz-Reif, M (2008). Temperature increases in preterm infants during massage therapy. Infant Behavior & Development, 31, 149 -52.
Benefits of Infant Massage for Parents
- Caregivers report feeling more comfortable and confident in their ability to care for baby.
- Parents learn to understand and respond to baby's cues.
- Parents learn techniques to comfort, calm, and soothe their babies.
- Provides an additional avenue for close and nurturing contact.
- Infant massage is one of the most natural and pleasant methods of providing this important early nurturing and an amazing tool for helping parents become closer to their babies.
Infant massage provides these benefits in 4 distinct ways:
Stimulates all the systems of the body including the: `
- Nervous system
- Circulatory system
- Respiratory system
- Elimination system
- Immune system
Stimulates the release of oxytocin, known as the cuddle hormone (is released in both parent and child), prolactin (promoting milk production in the mother) and other endorphins.
Reduces muscle stiffness and normalizes muscle tone.
- Helps relieve tension built up from all the stimulation in the baby's environment
- Helps babies handle sensory stimulation and respond in a relaxed manner
- Helps babies sleep better
- Helps regulate sleep/wake cycle
- Touch combined with vocalization helps reduce pain levels up to 80%
- Helps tone digestive tract
- Helps alleviate gas and promote elimination
- Releases hormones for food absorption
- Releases endorphins, natural pain killers, to ease emotional distress
Bonding and Attachment
- Infant massage draws on all the elements of bonding and attachment
- Eye-to-eye contact, skin-to-skin, body scent, vocalization, taste, responsiveness
- Hormones stimulated by infant massage promote bonding and attachment between parent and baby
Directors of an Early Intervention Agency
“Teaching families how to massage and nurture their babies helps us achieve our program’s goals of enhancing parent infant interaction and promoting healthy growth and development. We saw immediate results with the improvement of bonding and parent-child interaction.”
Head of an Early Intervention Agency
“The course is a must-have for any professional working with infants or working with parents of infants . . . everyone should know this information.”
“I love the combination of the in-person training and the great reflective questions that are on the written examination. The combination of the practice (i.e. work with 5 people) and the written questions are wonderful. The resources you provided at the training are so useful.”
Janet S. in Seattle, WA
“The training was excellent. I can tell a lot of thought has gone into the format. Giving the classes has confirmed for me that I really do have a passion for this field. I enjoy offering parents and caregivers this program to help the development of their children. I feel very well prepared.”
Elisa Maria A. in Portland, OR
"I was able to maintain patience even when babies were fussy all around me and I was able to keep a smile on my face. I learned that I can teach a group of women infant massage even though they are the parenting experts and to be more confident in suggesting ideas for discussions... these experiences have given me more confidence in teaching and speaking in front of a group and have helped prepare me for future challenges."
Amy Orme in Ashland, OR
“I loved meeting the parents and babies. Watching them perform infant massage was an absolutely beautiful experience.”
“I can’t stop talking about the course. It really made a difference in my life.”
“This course was so much more than I expected.”
“I woke up every morning excited about what I was going to learn that day. On the last day, I didn’t want it to be over!”
What Nurses are Saying About Infant Massage Instructor Training
“It was a very educational and fun training. This training can be beneficial for different goups or persons: Teenage Moms, Post Partum Moms, Babies with heightened sensitivities.”
Doris B, NYC, RN, Doula, Educator
“I feel like infant massage is a secret that needs to be shared. It has so many benefits and I think our society would ultimately benefit from it with all the other stress we face each day. The course was wonderful. Loved it!”
Luana L, Pennsylvania, RN
“Not only is IAIM an in-depth educational experience for those interested in infant massage, it is also a wonderful experience in which you’ll share ideas and learn from others who have simiar intersts and a vast array of stories to tell. It’s such a wonderful 4 day journey.”
Cindy V, NYC, RN
"Beyond my expectation. Moving experience.
Debora D, Boston, RN
Learn to Massage Your Baby
“A key component of the infant massage program is guiding parents to ask permission of their baby.”
Howard Steele, Associate Professor of Psychology, and Co-Director, Center for Attachment Research, New School for Social Research, Editor, Attachment & Human Development
Asking Permission: A Vital Step
Receiving permission from your baby is important before beginning massage. Some caregivers have difficulty imagining how a baby could possibly tell them s/he is ready and willing to be massaged. Of course, answering this question requires an appreciation for the interpersonal capacities of newborn human infants, the meaning of their gaze, their facial expressions, their posture, and other non-verbal or pre-verbal expressions of comfort or distress.
Baby massage instruction helps you recognize your baby’s repertoire of emotional and behavioral expressions, including the wish for an exclusive relationship with a preferred and loved caregiver. Learning when and how to seek permission before massaging a baby is an critical skill not only for infant massage, but also achieving mastery of the care giving skills needed to provide what a baby needs most: love and a secure infant-caregiver attachment.
Choosing a massage oil involves many considerations including:
- Cultural Preference
- Family Tradition
Cold Pressed Oil and Unscented Vegetable Oils
Generally we recommend cold pressed, unscented fruit and vegetable oils such as grapeseed, safflower, sunflower, or olive oil because:
- They are non-toxic and safe if ingested
- They can contain beneficial nutrients, such as vitamin E, which are good for the skin
- They contain ingredients that help prevent rancidity
- These oils are less slippery when applied, so it’s safer to handle your baby after application
- They have no added scent, so infants can still enjoy their parents’ natural smell
Why Attend a Class?
Our courses are taught over a number of weeks, normally 4 – 6 weeks, to give both the parent and baby time to learn and become comfortable with the massage. Each week parents learn strokes for a new part of the body while reviewing strokes from previous classes. So new strokes are learned and previous information is reinforced. We teach a little at a time to ensure that you are confident with every aspect.
The strokes and styles of baby massage are easier to grasp when demonstrated by our experienced instructors. Pressure, rate, rhythm, the length of the massage, respect, bonding, why baby cries, baby’s body language, positioning of the baby, relaxation and parent empowerment are some of the skills and topics that will be discussed.
What’s a Class Like?
- Our classes are held in small groups to ensure personalized attention.
- Classes are baby led. In our classes, it’s okay for babies to cry!
- Supportive group sessions where parents can share experiences and learn from each other while having fun.
- Recommended age for group classes is from birth to pre-crawling.
- Private individualized instruction is available. Please contact a Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM) near you.
- Our educators regularly conduct in-services and demonstrations for professional groups and conferences.