Infant Massage & The Power of Touch
by Maria Mathias
Anyone reading this probably already recognizes how necessary touch is to human biological and emotional health. As infants, our experiences largely define who we perceive ourselves to be. When we are young, we create an experiential map of the world and who we are in it, and then we use that map for the rest of our lives, even when many of the variables of the social landscape change later on.
Infant Massage is a demonstration to a baby that he is cherished and has a place in accord with life around him. It can be life-giving and life-sustaining, assuring the safety and support to be oneself. It is perhaps a response to our innate realization that nurturing our young will make happier kids. Like breast-feeding and rocking, infant massage is a practical and magical experience in the life of a child.
Infant Massage is not just about strokes or about doing a lot of them. It is also about parents observing and learning infinitely more about who their kids are. It’s learning what their baby likes, how to deliver it, how much, and when to stop. It’s developing parenting skills to readily adapt to what presents itself next in baby’s unfolding development. It’s about both creating and revising baby’s touch menu as his needs and preferences continue to change.
As well as being nurturing, infant massage has the general effect of normalizing many conditions. These include, but are not limited to, helping to normalize muscle tone, assisting in pain relief, assisting in increasing vocalization, encouraging mid-line orientation, improving sensory integration, assisting in relaxation, helping baby to sleep deeper and longer, helping to stimulate circulatory and GI systems, and helping to relieve colic or “gassy spells.” It is also a profound exercise to improve parenting skills.
Each baby is different from any other person on this planet, and can be better understood and cherished for his uniqueness by individualizing massage that works just right for him, right here/right now. We have always known that parents know their babies better than anyone else, and many parents have an innate “felt-sense” of what is happening with their babies, an almost mystical knowing of their baby’s state of well-being. It is ideal that parents learn to massage their children and that they become their children’s entrusted and most competent caretakers.
This conviction has fueled Maria Mathias’s work in infant massage over the past 20 years. During that time, Maria has taught infant massage to over 6000 families and has trained over 5000 infant massage instructors. She annually crisscrosses the US in her trainings and has trained students in Europe, Canada, and New Zealand. Her work over the past 12 years in New Mexico includes introducing touch into the hospital NICU, creating special, advanced trainings for instructors working with families of special-needs children, as well as those born biologically or environmentally at-risk. She is currently an Infant Massage Specialist with the Developmental Care Team of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of New Mexico Medical Center and co-director and principal teacher for the International Institute of Infant Massage.