Mothers share their experience of attending an IAIM baby massage course
Mums describe the benefits of baby massage, both for themselves and their babies.
Faye and LuciaFaye lives in Croydon, with her partner, young son and her baby daughter Lucia.
Can you remember how you heard about baby massage and what it was that made you want to learn how to massage Lucia?
The infant massage class in our local area was recommended to me by a friend who said how enjoyable the sessions had been and how infant massage had helped her understand the amazing abilities babies have for communicating. I had not massaged my son or had any experience of massage so this recommendation gave me the confidence to ring up and book on the next course.
What did you particularly want to gain from attending baby massage classes?
As Lucia was my second child I thought it would give us special time together. I just wanted to feel as close as I could with Lucia, just the two of us. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to meet other Mums.
Did it meet your expectations?
It was one of the best decisions I have made – the course more than exceeded my expectations. The massage sessions were in very pleasant surroundings and the atmosphere was calming and relaxing, with quiet background music. It seems a strange thing to say with a group of six parents and their babies but true.
It gave me confidence in my handling of Lucia and having one to one time with her and it made me realise how precious this bonding time was for both of us.
I also benefited from meeting with the other mothers and making friends. I was amazed at how touch can breakdown barriers.
What surprised you most by attending these sessions?
How Lucia reacted with other babies – I did not realise how socially aware young babies were and for me how relaxed I felt when giving Lucia a massage.
I was also surprised that we asked permission from our babies to begin the massage but after a while this became second nature and of course made perfect sense, as respecting a baby should be no different from a child or adult.
Has it helped you to understand your baby’s needs better?
Yes definitely, especially when she is fighting sleep, so understanding how to calm and relax her has had huge benefits for both of us.
We talked a lot about baby communication and cues during the course, so this understanding has been immensely helpful.
Can you describe how the massage has been helpful for Lucia
Lucia was a fairly calm baby anyway but I am sure it has helped her to relax and although she has not experienced colic or constipation – I have noticed that I can expect a dirty nappy after a massage, so I know it does improve the digestive system!
We talked about massaging older children on the course – so I now massage my son by telling him stories, an activity he really enjoys.
What did you like about the way the class was run
It was a very calming experience and the instructor made us all feel welcome.
We somehow knew it was our space and to appreciate that some babies would be feeding, very active or sleeping.
I liked the way the strokes were taught in a sequence, as this helped to increase my confidence and knowledge. I definitely would not have been confident enough to have massaged Lucia without attending a class.
I also looked forward to class members airing any concerns that may have arisen during the week or talking through issues with siblings.
It definitely gave me confidence to get out and about more – and I am still in regular contact with a mother I met on the course.
Are you still massaging Lucia regularly?
I massage Lucia every day after her bath, it is a lovely way of quietening down at the end of a busy day and it helps her go to sleep. Bliss!
Eunjung and EthanEunjung lives in Hertfordshire with her 7 year old daughter and baby son
Ethan was 5 months old when I started to massage him and he is 8 months now and his father is now learning how to massage him.
I am not a routine sort of person so do not do it regularly. I would love to massage him more often, but I am sometimes too busy. I have a very full diary, my 7yr old daughter to care for, housework, and I am still breastfeeding and want to continue this until Ethan is at least a year old.
I do sometimes massage him without oil, and first thing every morning I give him a back massage when he is lying flat on his back. I put my hands underneath his back and draw them down the length of his back just like my mother did with us. Also I do some of the gentle movements that we learnt at the last session of the course, gently exercising his arms and legs.
I was interested in massage for some time before I had Ethan, and I have done a course of adult massage at college. A friend who had learnt baby massage, recommended it to me even before Ethan was born. I phoned up the Children’s Centre as soon as he was born and was put on the waiting list. My mother, who is now 70, massaged all of us, and she massaged me when I was in labour, so I absorbed the idea of its value from her.
In Korea where I come from, massage tends to be firmer and more physical than that taught in this country, where it tends to be gentle and baby lead with emphasis on communication . I have also learnt about Taekwondo, which is a form of Korean Martial Arts; stretching with massage. It helps with physical development. By using both these practices at different times, the one compliments the other.
Bonding was the most important benefit for me; not that it needed improving, but I just wanted to feel as close as I could with Ethan. I wanted it to be special time for us. Touching is the most precious thing. I wanted to make him feel secure. Babies enjoy it. I tried to massage Emma when she was 8 months but she wouldn’t sit still. I am a fast person, always rushing about. It helps me to relax, especially with the baby music.
I have benefitted from meeting with the other mothers and making friends.
I didn’t communicate much with my daughter as I thought she wouldn’t understand, but with Ethan we communicate better with each other. He has more cuddle time with me now and we feel close. We both get nice feelings with the massage, and whenever I sing the songs we learnt on the course, he starts to smile. I think I understand his needs better now as we talked a lot about baby language and cues during the course, and we had time to watch our babies and work out what they were trying to tell us. I really learnt how to talk with Ethan, giving him a chance to talk with me: getting eye contact, waiting a few seconds to give him time to take in what I say and respond in his own way. The instructor showed us how to do this with her doll.
Ethan never had problems with wind, colic or constipation, but I know that the massage can help with that.
I liked the calm, relaxing atmosphere, with gentle background music on sometimes, and the fact that it was a small group (6 or 7 of us). I also liked the way the baby massage instructor ran the group. The mothers were respected as the experts with their baby, and we learned that the babies are our teachers. The babies are only massaged when they are in the quiet alert state, so lots of different things go on in the group, depending on the individual baby’s state at the time. Some might be feeding, some sleeping, some having a nappy change or a cuddle. If our baby was asleep at the time for massage, we could use one of the instructor’s dolls to practice the strokes on.
I looked forward to massage time. When you are there you have 1 ½ hours (a good length of time) with just you and your baby, and the other parents, sharing.......
I liked having suggestions for relaxation techniques for the parents, breathing and stretching before giving the massage.
We learned how important it was to “ask the baby’s permission” before starting the massage , to allow the baby time to show us if they were not in the mood.
It was not just about learning the strokes.I learnt a bit of anatomy, especially about the large intestine and the reasons for doing the tummy strokes in a clockwise direction to follow the natural course of digestion.
It was good to learn the strokes little by little, both for us and the babies, starting with the legs and feet at the first session, the legs, feet and tummy at the second session, and gradually more as the course went on. When Emma, my daughter sees me giving Ethan a massage, she wants one too, so I change the strokes to be more suitable for her.
I like the fact that we were provided with, and encouraged to continue to use a pure, organic, unrefined, plant oil such as sunflower seed.
Meeting with other parents and sharing information was valuable. I would definitely recommend other parents to attend a course to learn how to massage their baby.
The following quotes are from two mothers who attended baby massages classes, and benefitted from this simple and special form of nurturing touch. The course took place in the home of the mother who had the largest sitting room!
From Lucy and 4 month old Maisie
“I thought that the class was a fantastic time to spend only focusing on my baby. Lots of guilt is attached to becoming a parent and I felt that with all of the jobs and visiting you have to get through when you have a new baby it was lovely to have a set time put aside to spend with just the two of us. Obviously the group is shared with other Mums but we can all indulge in our own babies and not feel that we have to keep up with the conversation!
For the above reasons I recommend this to all parents - new or old- even if massage isn't something that you are particularly interested in. It was worth every penny just for the quality time together.”
and from Ruth and Luke:
"My baby Luke and I really enjoyed the baby massage classes. As he's grown a bit older, Luke seems to have 'gone off' formalized massage sessions, and I respect that, though occasionally he's in the mood and we do ten minutes or so. But I do use a version of one of the tummy strokes each night to help him settle to sleep (it's an extremely strong association for him now), and more generally the classes helped me feel more confident about touching Luke: we've developed our own little sequences for comfort, relaxing or fun. Luke especially enjoys me drawing patterns on his back, just as I remember my mum doing with me."