Importance of Touch – the Benefits of Infant Massage


By Stephanie Maziejka

Touch. It means something different to each of us. It is nearly impossible to live life without touch. We touch and are touched every day. We hug when we are happy and we hug when we are sad. The same action can convey very different emotions. Yet in today’s society touch is almost taboo. The media covers stories of negative touch so frequently that in our minds touch is a bad thing. Touch has the power to transfer emotion and intent and we must learn when and what kind of touch is acceptable. My mission as a Massage Therapist is to educate about touch and its amazing benefits for the mind, body, and spirit. In my monthly posts, I will be discussing touch as it relates to different demographics and giving you tips on how to use and introduce touch to your family!

Infant Massage is a great place to start talking about touch since the best way to ensure a healthy lifestyle is to introduce healthy habits at a young age! Infant Massage focuses on providing nurturing touch to promote bonding and attachment between you and your baby. An Infant Massage class or session is facilitated by a Certified Educator of Infant Massage (that’s me!) with parents being the ones to administer the massage strokes to baby.  The massage itself is compiled of techniques taken from Swedish massage, Indian Massage, Reflexology, and Yoga. In addition to the strokes Infant Massage teaches baby behavioral states and body cues to help parent’s better respond to their newborns.

It is a lot more empowering as a parent to look at your little one and know he’s sleepy than to run through a checklist of a thousand possibilities as to why your sweet baby is now screaming bloody murder. Babies communicate by crying, it’s not because they are mad at us or because they think we are complete morons (although to be honest as a new mom I can tell you that first week I brought my son home I was convinced he wished the hospital nurses had come home with us!) they are the most confident little human beings who know what they want and when they want it – NOW. A baby whose parents respond to his or hers behavioral cues very rarely cries like an Opera singer, because they know they are safe and taken care of and even if it takes a little longer than usual the service has been 5 stars and they are not going to cause a scene due to a temporary delay. A baby whom has had his or her cues ignored learns very quickly that the only way to get immediate satisfaction is to go from silent to screaming in 3 seconds flat. Every. Single. Time. It can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for, Infant Massage helps guide parents to learn their baby’s cues faster so they can respond as and remain happy and sane.

In addition to body cues, Infant Massage also teaches about behavioral states. Behavioral states are periods of energy and activity throughout the day. We sometimes forget that these newborn babies are just little humans and like any big human may not want to play or be touched at all hours of the day. There are six states to look for: 1) quiet asleep, 2) active asleep, 3) quiet alert, 4) active alert, 5) drowsy, and 6) crying. The best time to massage a baby is during quiet alert when they are aware of what is going on, they are making eye contact, and are happy to hang out and be rubbed on.

The benefits of Infant Massage are vast and varied. Physically Infant Massage helps stimulate the body systems and promote healthy development in your baby, relieves pain associated with teething, gas and colic, relaxes tension related to stress and development as well as improves sleep (both babies and parents benefit here!) and bonding/attachment are promoted through skin to skin contact, eye contact, vocalization, and smell. Research shows Infant Massage is extremely beneficial to premature infants in areas of weight gain and development.

Classes work in two ways: group session with 5 families that meet once a week for five weeks or individual sessions that meets once a week for three weeks. The class is really run by the babies as they are the ones being massaged, if they are not in the right behavioral state for it you don’t massage them but you can still practice the strokes on the dolls or stuffed animals provided. Edible lotions like olive, vegetable, and coconut oil are used for lubrication because babies tend to put everything in their mouth so you want to avoid mineral oils or lotions with chemicals and scents. Each week a new body part is introduced and massaged, until you work your way up to a full body massage!

Check back next week for the video on How To Massage Your Infant.

Stephanie Maziejka is a massage enthusiast. She provides clinical massage at a gym during the week and teaches the art and science of massage therapy on the weekend at the National Massage Therapy Institute in Falls Church, VA. Believing it is never too early to begin a healthy lifestyle, she teaches infant massage and enjoys helping families to bond and benefit from nurturing healthy touch. Stephanie has recently become a mother herself and is getting to experience firsthand the joys and benefits of motherhood and massage.

Contact Stephanie directly via Email . If you live in Northern Virginia, you can also stop by Lifetime Fitness in Sterling, VA where Stephanie works Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 9-4.