Massage for Infants & Children
by Donald W. Gillmore, Licensed Massage Therapist (May 1996, Reprinted by Permission of Zia Sports: Health and Fitness News Letter)
Infant massage is a growing practice. Massage helps our precious newest members of the planet thrive.
A typical infant massage may last from 15 to 35 minutes. A baby's muscles aren't developed enough to have knots so
vigorous kneading strokes are not used. All of the strokes should be long, slow and rhythmic with just enough pressure to be comfortable but stimulating. Gentle abdominal massage is also included.
Pre-term infants, infants exposed to drugs or HIV, as well as children with chronic diseases such as arthritis, asthma, autism,
burns, cancer, dermatitis and diabetes can benefit from massage. Infant massage is frequently given by nurses in neonatal care units and by parents who want to care for their children at home.
In a study by Tiffany Field published in 1986, pre-term infants were given a 15 minute massage three times a day for 10 days.
They gained 47 percent more weight, performed better on neonatal assessments and were discharged 6 days earlier than those not massaged. Mrs. Field is director of the Touch Research Institute at the University
of Miami School of Medicine. Other studies sponsored by the institute indicate that the frequency and severity of asthmatic attacks decreased for older children who were massaged. Peak air flows increased
while anxiety decreased.
Children don't need to be ill to benefit from massage. One study suggests that massage is even more calming and beneficial to
fussy babies than simple rocking. In her excellent book, Infant Massage - A Handbook for Loving Parents, Vimala Schneider McClure states that it improves development of the nervous system, stimulates the
immune system, reduces gas/colic and strengthens child-parent bonding. Furthermore, older children from 3 to 10 obviously enjoy the attention and comfort afforded by appropriate touch.
The benefits of massage work both ways. Parents who give massage to their chronically ill children report feeling less helpless
and have less anxiety. In studies where parents were not available to give massages, elderly volunteer "grandparents" were used. After a month of giving massage the volunteers were less depressed,
slept better and made fewer visits to their physicians.
For infants, massage is much more than a luxurious sensual experience or a type of physical therapy. It is a tool for
maintaining a child's health and well-being on many levels. For parents, it is a special opportunity to communicate love and support to their children.
Parents or nurses interested in learning infant massage should contact the International Association of Infant Massage
Instructors at (800) 248-5432. They will refer you to certified instructors in your area. Infant Massage - A Handbook for Loving Parents is available through local book stores. In Albuquerque check with Blue
Eagle and Read On Books. The quarterly newsletter "touchpoints" reports on research projects at the Touch Research Institute. It is available for $10/year by writing to the University of Miami School
of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics (D-80), PO Box 016820, Miami FL 33101.
For Infant Massage classes for Parents in the Albuquerque area, contact Rose Smith at Earth Spirit Therapies.
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