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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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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to spend a day with board members and other LMT’s (Licensed Massage Therapists) from the Illinois Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association. Since we’ve had so many legislative issues effecting Chicago and Illinois massage therapists, I wanted to do my part and put my two cents in on their annual Strategic Planning session. I want to share my observations with my loyal readers and any fellow massage therapists that read my blog.

What So Great About the AMTA?

First off, I recently rejoined the AMTA after quitting the organization about 6 years ago. I’ve been a member of the Association for Bodywork and Massage Professionals for the past 6 years or so instead. However, after seeing how proactive AMTA-IL has been, I decided to reactive my AMTA membership. Now, I belong to both organizations! Why, because both organizations do different things well. And two things I’ve seen AMTA-IL do really well this past year is to get out the word to massage therapists about pending legislation and to use the AMTA local volunteer network to access legislators on a few key issues. Unfortunately, AMTA and massage therapists efforts were not enough to stop two pieces of legislation from being passed–legislation that is damaging to massage therapists, and in my book, to the public as well.  But as the old saying goes, it ain’t over til it’s over. Or in this case, it’s not over until AMTA-IL  massage therapists, and the public in general, decide to stop fighting against legislation that is not in the public’s best interests nor in the best interests of the massage therapy profession. I just don’t see that fight ending any time soon. Legislation can be overturned or changed. New laws and ordinances can be written. It just takes effort. A lot of effort!

The Interesting People I Met at the Strategic Planning Meeting of the AMTA-IL Chapter

That all said, the Strategic Planning session was about 10 times more fun than I anticipated. There were about 25 people in a meeting room at a local Schaumberg hotel. The Chapter provided breakfast, lunch, treats (Fresh made cookies from the hotel kitchen as well as fruit, my favorite snack!) and beverages to keep us fortified and hydrated.

• I met “celebrity” massage therapist and winner of the  National Sports Massage Achiever Award, Nester Battaung. You would recognize Nester if you say him because his face is plastered all over Athletico ads in the area. Nester is fun, energetic and a former collegiate gymnast.

• I also spoke at length with  Becky Schwoebel, Senior Vice President of the chapter and a massage therapist in the eastern part of the state near St. Louis. If it hadn’t been for the meeting, I would never have met Becky since she practices and lives 5 hours away.

• One of the treats of the day was to hear stories about the history of massage therapy from Pat Malone, a man with a book inside his head, waiting to come out. (Write your stories into a history of the profession, Pat!)

• I also met Heather Rabbit in the flesh. In addition to being a Licensed Massage Therapist, Heather runs Infant Massage Classes at Swedish Covenent Hospital and she promised to share her infant massage video with me for this  blog. (Coming soon!)

• I also got to spend time with Mike Hovi, President of the IL Chapter and a real stud! (One of the bonding exercises we did was to draw a symbol that represented how we see ourselves. Mike drew a stud because he holds up/supports the chapter and, like a stud in the wall, he can’t do it alone.)

• Lastly, I met Robin Doerr,  an LMT from Elmhurst that runs her own massage business and has rooms for rent for other LMTs in the area. Robin and I have read each others comments on Facebook (and realized we were both WMTI grads!) but this was our first chance to meet in person and swap ideas about business and management.  She has since agreed to meet my Facebook challenge and plans to present at the upcoming  Spring Conference of the AMTA-IL.

What We Did at the Strategic Planning Meeting

We spent a great deal of time coming up with ideas to help promote Illinois massage therapists, and to educate the public, the medical community and our legislators about the massage profession. There are still many legislators (as evidenced by our recent City Council passing restrictive zoning ordinances) that don’t know the difference between massage “parlor” illicit activities and legitimate massage therapy.  There are also large segments of the population that don’t have access to or experience with licensed massage therapists, only with people pretending to be massage therapists but really offering illicit activities. We also talked about how massage therapists as a group need to be better educated about massage research, how to use it and how to conduct or design new research studies for massage therapy as well as about how to run their own businesses, market their practices and be successful.

The Future of Massage Therapy in Illinois

Some people may see this as a dark time for the massage profession because we’d had so many setbacks legislatively, in the media (The View, The Al Gore story, etc.) and with the struggling economy. I see it as a time of great opportunity for the massage profession to use these obstacles as a spring-board for a stronger, better educated, better organized, proactive approach to making massage an important part of mainstream health care, a practical low-cost stress management intervention for workplaces, and a partner with other health care providers. And the AMTA-IL Chapter is one big cog in this wheel of progress.

As only the recently converted can be, I hope I don’t come across as a zealot for the AMTA-IL chapter. I simply have high hopes for the over 3300 massage therapists in Illinois that rely on the guidance of the Illinois chapter. As one of  the over 3300, I am doing my part to help my fellow massage therapists, my clients and the public in general to live in a future world where massage is more respected, where massage therapists are better educated and proactive regarding legislative issues that effect our profession.  Mike Hovi will be publishing the results of the Strategic Planning committee to members soon and he will also be putting out a call to action to Illinois AMTA members with all the gory details.

A Great Opportunity for AMTA-Illinois Massage Therapists

If you are a LMT and a member of the AMTA-IL, don’t be intimidated (or bored) by the idea of working with the chapter. They need all of us to do even a small part. Sometimes they need someone to send emails or make phone calls or help out with mailings or other tasks. If you are an instructor with something valuable to share with other massage therapists, the chapter is looking for presenters for the upcoming AMTA-IL state conference in Itasca in April. If you are Facebook savvy and want to help out with the chapter Facebook pages (due to the mysteries of how Facebook works,  they have two Facebook pages for the IL Chapter!), they need help there as well. Link here and here.

How AMTA-IL Members Can Benefit Massage Clients

If you are a client of a Licensed Massage Therapist who is an AMTA member ask them what is going on with the Illinois chapter of AMTA. (Don’t know if they are? Ask them!) Your AMTA-IL massage therapist may be able to work with you to help provide outreach efforts in your community for charity events, community fairs or even give short talks about massage therapy to your group or church.

My Contribution to AMTA-IL State Conference in April

My friends, clients, and family know I am a very busy person. I run a business, have my own clients, and also started graduate school in Clinical Professional Psychology this fall. (You may have noticed my blog postings slowing down, Now you know why!) But I felt this Strategic Planning session was too important to miss.  I don’t have much time left in my jam-packed schedule to help out the AMTA-IL chapter, but I am fitting in what I can when I can. This spring I committed to presenting a Continuing Education session for my fellow massage therapists on Marketing their practices. If every busy, and especially not busy, of the over 3300 AMTA-IL massage therapists did just one thing, one task, one project, or attended one meeting, think of all the good that could come for the profession, for the lot of Illinois massage therapists and for the public.

I can hardly wait to see how this year unfolds. And see what my fellow AMTA-IL massage therapists and the chapter board members produce in the coming year. I will keep you posted as I find out!

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