This week for group night we welcomed Karie Gerke. She is a licensed physical therapist who is certified in infant massage. We had an awesome time with her as she showed us how mothers can bond with their little ones as young as one month old. Since we have no babies with us at this time, we used dolls that she brought with her. Shawna got to use “Miranda,” a very lifelike doll.
The most important rule to follow when starting massages with a baby is to get his or her permission. Obviously young infants cannot yet speak but there are several physical cues to look for. These include giving nice eye contact, a smile, or simply a certain way that he or she turns their head. To turn massages or anything else into a routine, words and actions help the baby understand what is going to happen next. The baby should be in his or her alert stage but also calm. The massager should also be in a calm state and be ready to take her time. Babies can be massaged on a wide variety of surfaces, such as the floor, a table, a lap, or against a shoulder. Younger babies tend to feel more secure on the lap.
Even though it is an optional activity for caregivers to participate with their babies, infant massage has a wide range of benefits. Infants take a while to gain sensory awareness. With the help of massages, they gain a greater understanding of where their body parts are and how to use them. It sometimes takes a little bit of time for some babies to know they have feet! Massages can reduce stress and anxiety for the babies. It also helps to relieve tense muscles, especially if a baby spends a lot of time in one place such as a carrier or bouncy seat. The more a mother is in tune with her baby, the better she can determine if her baby is sick or has another ailment. Tummy strokes specifically help digestion for a fussy baby. Lastly, massages create a special bond between the mother and the baby. They are an excellent way for some one-on-one time and a fun activity.