Updated: Feb 2, 2021
I'm so honored to guest blog for Born Happy and to share my passion for infant massage!
My name is Megan Greffen, and I am a Certified Educator of Infant Massage and the founder/owner of This Little Piggy.
Benefits of Infant Massage
Infant massage is a series of strokes and presses designed to provide a positive touch experience for babies.
We hold our babies, we rock them, we put lotion on them after baths... so what's different about massage? Infant massage further enhances that touch and helps in a major way in these four areas: sensory stimulation, relief of gas and other gastrointestinal issues, relaxation, and the promotion of bonding and attachment. Touch is the most powerful of all interactions between parent and a child.
Deep-Rooted History of Infant Massage
Infant massage was formalized in 1976 by Vimala McClure, founder of Infant Massage USA and International. While working at an orphanage in India, Vimala witnessed staff massaging the babies and observed the powerful impact it had on them. Even with the lack of proper nutrition or consistent caregivers, the babies thrived and showed positive attachment signs. As world advocate for infant massage, Vimala has spoken with mamas from East Africa, South America, and Sweden, places where massage is ingrained in their culture. When asked why they do this, her response is that it comes naturally.
Relieving Tummy Issues
Babies and their bellies work so hard, from digesting breast milk and formula, to baby foods, and then solids, it's no wonder!
In her pediatric practice, McClure notes that babies' gastrointestinal systems are immature at birth, and that massage provides them the prompting they need to begin functioning effectively.
Gas bubbles, constipation, reflux, colic, irritable bowel = no sleep, lots of tears (from parents too - no shame!), and trips to the pediatrician.
Some parents even report feeling distanced from their kiddo if his/her irritability becomes extreme.
How can infant massage help you and your baby?
First, check with your pediatrician to make sure that infant massage is appropriate for your baby. If so, you may move forward!
The basic infant massage sequence for the stomach is six strokes/presses that are designed to relieve gas and constipation, provide relaxation, and move gas and waste the direction of the colon (that is, clockwise). There are three parts of the colon we work with, the ascending, transverse, and descending colons.
Regular practice means regularity.
Will it hurt my baby?
Infant massage is not manipulative the way adult massage is. There is no vigorous kneading. In fact, the pressure for infant massage is like testing a peach at the grocery store.
Babies may have some discomfort as gas/waste is passing through, but this tension will pass and the result will provide relief.
Remember, you are the expert of your baby. Taking the time to read this article shows that you've' got his or her best interest at heart.
How often should I do the tummy massage?
If you baby is experiencing frequent tummy troubles, try it twice a day for two weeks.
If you are practicing other massage (arms, face, legs) take a break from these during those two weeks.
When is the best time to do tummy massage?
Avoid doing tummy massage immediately after a feeding. Allow 45-60 minutes for a baby's tummy to digest feeds.
Ready to learn how?
Tummy time, by far, is the most popular request I receive in my group and individual classes.
In fact, tummy troubles were the precipitator for my practice. As a former Child Life Specialist in a Center for Neonatal Transitional Care, I worked with a number of babies in a Small