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Infant Massage Therapy

20 December 2010 One Comment

1. Relief of discomfort

    Massage releases both oxytocin and endorphins and therefore can assist in relieving discomfort from teething, congestion, colic and emotional stress.

    Teething: teething has been described as a painful struggle for some babies. Though infant massage has not been proven to relieve all discomfort associated with teething it can be successfully used in conjunction with the parent’s choice of care during these times.
    In addition to providing the infant with reassurance and comfort, the endorphins and oxytocins released assist with pain relief and mood enhancement.

    Massage for babies and infantsCongestion: Chest congestion
    The Swedish massage technique for ‘breaking up’ the congestion of mucous in the chest involves a form of tapotement. This technique, when learnt and practiced properly, can ‘break up’ the mucous in the lungs making it easier for infants to eliminate the excess mucous.

    Sinus congestion
    Massaging the sinuses on the face helps clear the sinuses of excess mucous. This is helpful to infants as it eases the process of ridding the nasal passage of excess mucous.

    Colic: IMIS defines colic as painful gas causing a distended, firm abdomen, which takes an infant a long period of time to eliminate without assistance. Repeating a small series of strokes on the abdomen has been used to relieve colic. In addition to this the stoking helps the infant to relax so that tension does not escalate their discomfort.

    We believe that a daily massage (incorporating correct massage of the abdomen) can help in preventing colic. By applying gentle pressure to the abdomen while stroking using a specific sequence, small amounts of gas trapped between other substances can be moved through the colon, assisting in elimination. If these small amounts are consistently being eliminated a build up of gas can be prevented.

    Emotional Stress: Infants sometimes use their massage time to weep and though IMIS does not recommend that stroking continue through this crying we do believe this emotional release is positive. Studies have shown that withholding emotions can lead to health problems; it is for this reason that qualified instructors encourage parents to view an emotional release during massage as an opportunity to truly listen to their child and allow them to release tension.
    On a more technical aspect, once again this benefit also comes back to the release of oxytocin – the body’s natural mood enhancer.

2. Speeds myelination of the brain and nervous system

    Skin stimulation speeds the process of myelination of the brain and nervous system therefore improving brain-body communication and enhancing neural-cell firing.

3. Relaxation and enhancement of neurological development

    Massage provides both stress and relaxation for an infant, both being components of optimum learning conditions.During massage an infant may experience both stress and relaxation. Increased circulation, the air on their skin, the stimulation of stroking, are all potentially stressful to a newborn, yet these are balanced with the reassurance the parent’s voice, odour and touch provide. This kind of balance is essential for the learning process.

    Stress causes the pituitary gland to produce ACTH (Adrenocorticotrophic hormone). Experiments where laboratory animals are given ACTH show growth of millions of new connecting links between the neurons. This is what enables the brain to process information and, applied to infants, this process aids in converting new and stressful situations into something that is recognised as predictable.

    If not balanced with relaxation an overload of stress can result in the decrease of sensory intake, something that is essential if infants are to reach their full potential.

    Preventative medicine?

    It is estimated that stress plays a part in 60-90% of all illnesses so it may follow suit that infant massage, which provides the balance of relaxation will assist infants in learning to effectively cope with stress and, based on this above estimate may in fact be healthier because of it.

4. Sleep

    Some infants sleep for longer periods following massage and appear to have longer periods of deep sleep. This seems to please most parents and is often the reason they seek an infant massage course. As with many other situations involving infants, a course of action that is effective with one infant does not apply to the next. There are cases where the problematic sleep pattern of infants is not affected by massage.

5. Stimulates the vagus nerve

    Dr. Tiffany Field, founder of the Touch Research Institute in Florida, found that massage stimulates the vagus nerve.

    Cranial nerve X, the vagus nerve has many interesting functions including increasing peristalsis. Defined by Thibadeau and Patton in ‘Anatomy and Physiology’, peristalsis are “wave like, rhythmic contractions of the stomach and intestines that move food material along the digestive tract.” Therefore we can conclude that  MASSAGE STIMULATES AND AIDS DIGESTION.

    The vagus nerve’s sensory fibres also supply the lungs. A study conducted at the Touch Research Institute showed that following one month of 20 minute massages each night, asthmatic children could breath better. (Based on their daily peak airflow readings). From this we conclude that  MASSAGE DEEPENS RESPIRATION.

6. Teaches infants that touch is a form of expression.

7. Helps tone muscles and aids growth

8. Enhances the bonding process

9. Increases infant’s body awareness

    IMIS instructors encourage parents to name body parts during massage. This simple practice teaches infants games, words and speech. In addition to this, newborns still adapting to an environment without the boundaries of the womb may learn things such as where their body starts and finishes and that their feet and hands are in fact attached to the rest of their body.

10. Strengthens the immune system

    A study conducted at the Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida, found that massage resulted in a significant increase is Natural Killer Cell numbers. Natural Killer cells are a group of white blood cells that kill many types of tumor cells. This is thought to have particularly positive implications for children suffering from HIV and cancer.

11. Teaches children from birth that they are in charge of their own body and that it is ok for them to say no to people touching them…

    IMIS teaches parents to interpret an infant’s body language in regards to massage. We recommend that when they interpret a ‘no cue’ from the infant to respond appropriately by either not continuing or not beginning the massage. By respecting the child’s rejection of touch, parents are teaching their infant that he/she deserves respect when it comes to making decisions about who touches their body and that it is ok to say no if you don’t want to be touched.

12. Increases oxygen and nutrient flow to the cells

13. Increases circulation

14. Improves sensory awareness

15. Helps encourage midline orientation

    This assists with coordination and balance.

16. Parents feel more confident in their new role…

    …knowing that they can do something themselves to enhance the health and development of their child.

17. Massage provides quality time with a working parent

18. Increases the parent’s ability to help relax their child in times of stress

19. Is relaxing and fun for parents

20. Can involve the father…

    … to assist in alleviating the possible feelings that they are being left out. (Particularly common when the mother isbreast-feeding).

21. Enables parents to be more receptive to their baby

    Interpreting the infant’s body language during massage is certainly a part of this, but on a medical level, parents who massage each day are more likely to notice a change in their child’s physical condition. For example, they may feel a strange lump that may have gone un-noticed for a period of time with an infant who was not receiving massage.

22. Infant massage is fun!

    We have heard this time and time again. Watch a parent massage their child – you can definitely see the enjoyment being reciprocated between the two. The feedback we receive from parents and infants (through body language) indicates that they are as eager as each other when it comes to be time for their daily massage routine.
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