Benefits of Infant Massage
By Andrea Ciccocioppo
Most parents instinctively want to cuddle their babies because it just feels good. But there is a benefit to touch that goes beyond that feeling of pride and elation. And parents who want to make the most of their touch can seek training in infant massage therapy.
“A lot of the parents I train have no idea how to touch their babies,” explains Lin Roussel, a nurse-massage therapist and certified infant massage therapy instructor based in Lancaster County. “One size does not fit all.”
Infant Massage Therapy instruction is designed to teach parents how to massage their infants up to a year old to promote healthy development and bonding. “Caring human touch is crucial for a healthy thriving baby and the benefits of massaging your infant are potent and numerous,” Roussel says.
According to the International Association of Infant Massage, research shows multiple benefits of massage, including improved circulation; enhanced development of the nervous system; stimulated neurological development; increased alertness; reduced stress hormones; relief from gas, colic and constipation; and deepened bonding.
“Infant massage has also been shown to improve the quality of a baby’s sleep, as well as strengthening their immune system,” Roussel says.
Massage classes—which are generally one hour-and-a-half-long session—can be held in private or in a group setting. “I teach the parents how to massage their infant,” Roussel explains. “I don’t do the massage unless they are special needs or hospice infants.”
For many parents, the instruction is key. “I read about (infant massage) with my first son, but never put it into practice because I was afraid of doing it ‘wrong,’” says Kirsten Crosby Blose, a Lancaster County mom of Justin, 3, and Alex, 5 months. “Taking a class can put you at ease.”
Roussel was a nurse who began her career with a pediatric rotation while in nursing school. “It was disturbing to me, the lack of touch in nursing,” she says. “When I became a massage therapist, I wanted to use my medical background and my intuition that people love to be touched.”
She says she’s seen great results from both infants and parents. “The babies will let you know if they don’t like it,” she says. “The parents gain self-confidence. They are so happy when they find out what kind of touch their infants love.”
Crosby Blose says she wishes she’d have learned about infant massage sooner. “Justin suffers from multiple food allergies and for the first four months of his life until we realized what was going on, his poor belly hurt so much,” she recalls. “I think that infant massage would have helped to soothe and relax him.”