“Can I massage you now?” I can hear my dad whisper this, swishing the cold-pressed oil in his hands, looking engagingly into my eyes and smiling his warm “I’m glad I’m your dad” smile at me. I can’t contain my excitement. My enthusiastic arms and legs reach and flail as I hear myself squeal my approval. Yes! Once again dad’s hands are beginning to gently and lovingly assure me that I am so special… and special to him. It is so wonderful to feel how cherished I am!
His big warm hands firmly but gently offer support as they mindfully touch, hold and slowly stroke in a way that says “I love you.” His eyes also show how much he is enjoying being with me. Inside I feel everything relax; I feel my body expand as I take in dad’s life-giving touch. And he adjusts his touch so that it feels just right, and I can tolerate it. It’s not too fast. It’s not too slow. It’s just right. He’s watching my cues every second to make sure it’s perfect for me.
My dad loves me. I know it. He shows me every day with massage. I really like to be touched, to feel safe, to feel supported, to feel loved. Dad can tell when I want to be played with and when I need to stop, or when I’m hungry, or if I need a comfort break to be held for a few minutes. Because we do infant massage a lot, he’s learned to really know me by recognizing my own unique self. We really do communicate this way.
It’s so good to feel listened to and understood… and to know my dad loves me!
A Very Lucky Baby
Infant Massage is a parenting tradition of loving touch that parents of many cultures have used for centuries. First introduced as a parenting tool in the United States in the mid-1970s, it has gained an increasingly large and active following from professionals whose hearts have been drawn to facilitating the magical experience of the deep bonding of parents and babies.
Clinical studies support this gentle but powerful tradition that is now being taught in 41 countries. Infant massage is being used increasingly in medical settings with fragile or at-risk infants such as premature infants, infants with various delays, and infants with pre-natal drug exposure. The benefits are deep and lasting, helping to strengthen and regulate the respiratory, circulatory, and gastrointestinal functions, supporting organization of the nervous system, normalizing muscle tone, promoting attachment, and helping baby to relax and sleep deeper and longer.
The 4-day infant massage instructor certification course is information-based, with a strong experiential component, helping trainees to develop flexibility in facilitating the emerging dance of touch between the parent and child. Teaching and observing parent-baby classes throughout this training is an experiential emersion for learning to adapt strokes to the unique sensory system of each infant, and adapt teaching style to the unique learning style of each parent. It is being in partnership with parents, and facilitating a deep connection and communication by mindfully following the baby’s non-verbal cues to fine tune the many qualities of touch.
Maria Mathias is co-founder of the International Institute of Infant Massage. As one of the founding mothers and pioneers in the development of Infant Massage as a parenting tradition in western culture, Maria has been instrumental in designing the first curriculums of Infant Massage Instructor Certification Training, as well as initiating the implementation of infant massage as a parenting program in hospitals. Since 1992 she has been an Infant Massage Specialist with the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Dept. of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatoloty, where she works in NICU with critically ill, biologically and environmentally at-risk infants and their families, as well as providing home visitation within the community.