By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer
Infant massage helps baby's digestion and gassiness
I met Heather Rabbit recently at the AMTA-IL Strategic planning meeting. After spending a day with Heather and chatting with her over lunch, I can say that, if I were pregnant, she is the massage therapist I would most likely go to for pregnancy massage. And if I had a new born, I would also pick her as my number one Infant Massage Instructor. Heather is not only fit, smart, professional, knowledgeable and articulate, she is also warm and compassionate. And Heather has a passion for infant massage instruction as well as massage therapy in general. She is also a nationally certified and state licensed massage therapist practicing in Chicago, Illinois. She teaches parents how to give their babies massage in her Infant Massage Class at Swedish Covenent Hospital. Her website is here.
Read this excerpt about infant massage as explained by Heather from an article by Anne E. Stein, a Contributing writer in WellCommunity, a publication of Swedish Covenent Hospital.:
“Believe it or not, babies get stressed out,” Rabbitt says. “Massage helps them learn what relaxation is at a young age, and studies have shown they’ll be more relaxed as they grow.”
In addition to calming a baby, massage helps with digestion and gassiness by stimulating the stomach and large intestine. Tummy massage, explains Rabbitt, is extremely helpful for soothing colicky babies.
Other studies have shown that, like adults, babies derive a significant amount of relaxation and good feeling from massage because it decreases the stress hormone cortisol, which is harmful for brain development. Reduction in this hormone can cause an increase in the antibodies that fight infection and facilitate healthy weight gain.
More studies still have found that infant massage may increase babies’ alertness, attentiveness and ability to learn.
“Overall, brain development is defined and guided by our environment, and infant massage helps create a physical and emotional environment for baby that is open to learning,” Rabbitt said. “The sensation of touch can facilitate this brain development and creates denser and more comprehensive brain cells.”
This theory is based on the fact that babies (by about age 1) naturally have about 150 percent more neural connections (brain cells) than adults do. As babies age, their bodies start to shed the connections that are not being used. But if their brains are well stimulated at an early age, they retain more information, and are more responsive to learning.
Therefore, it is essential that babies take in as much sensation and information as possible during that time, and infant massage can serve as the needed stimulus.
Massage is a great tool for parents, especially if swaddling and rocking aren’t working. When a parent gets home from work, for example, infant massage provides quality time that comforts baby and decreases the parent’s stress.
The connection created by massage can be especially important for dads, who often feel left out because they haven’t carried the baby for nine months and don’t experience the intimacy of breastfeeding.
Infant massage techniques are similar to adult massage techniques though gentler, and generally 20 minutes is the maximum time for massage. It’s extremely easy to learn, said Rabbitt. At Swedish Covenant Hospital, up to two caregivers can attend three, 60 to 90-minute classes with their baby (Rabbitt also provides in-home sessions). The massage techniques are designed for babies from birth to one year, but classes are typically taken between four weeks to just before the baby starts to crawl.
Infant massage is also being used in a research project in the hospital’s special care nursery for late pre-term babies (27-34 weeks). Babies receive three massages a day for five days, with a goal of increasing their weight gain faster so they can go home sooner. Previous studies have shown that early pre-term infants gained 47 percent more weight and were discharged earlier than infants who weren’t massaged.
Link to the entire article here.
Heather Rabbit, LMT, Infant Massage Instructor
In 2008, Heather received a grant from the Massage Therapy Foundation entitled: Increasing Infant-Mother Interaction, Decreasing Depression – Teaching Infant Massage to Women With Symptoms of Postpartum Depression. With this grant, she was able to help 15 new mothers use infant massage as a tool to decrease anxiety, create a healthy and loving relationship with their new babies, and make sure their babies were developing properly for their age.
Heather is certified in Pre, Peri and Postnatal massage, as well as orthopedic massage. She is also the Secretary on the Board of Directors for 3300 member-Illinois chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association and she has BA from Ohio State University.
Watch Heather explain infant massage in this video, You Tube link here. Link to Heather’s website here.
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