Being a baby can be a tough business. Growing a centimetre or more a month and assimiliating all that new information can be a little overwhelming. Baby Rhyal has been a little grizzly and out of sorts for the past two nights, so her mum has decided to take her to infant masseuse Angela Rowland.
Angela believes it is best for parents to learn how to perform massage on their own children as it is a very intimate form of touch. This allows the child to feel more secure and to learn that it is not always appropriate for strangers to invade their personal space. Angela will demonstrate the massage procedure on a doll and Mum will copy her movements.
This special form of infant massage puts the decision making in the hands of the little one. Angela shows Mum how to ask for Rhyal’s permission before commencing the massage. Hands are rubbed together and presented for Rhyal to inspect while Mum asks the question, “Would you like a massage?”. If this process is repeated over the next few weeks, Rhyal will recognise it as the cue for a massage and will make clear gestures as to whether or not she is in the mood.
Angela is adamant that only the finest quality oils be used on young ones. She suggests a cold-pressed, organic sesame seed oil. Synthetic oils and overheated, processed oils from the supermarket are not the best choice for this tender procedure. Also, the use of pure essential oils must be avoided in infants under the age of one.
The massage begins with the legs. Mum’s hands are held in a C-shape and gently glide from the ankle up towards the thigh with alternating hand strokes. It is important not to press the bottom of the infant’s foot as there is an acupressure point there that will curl and cramp the toes.
Next, Mum massages Rhyal’s legs in circular motions using three fingers, being careful to avoid the shin and knee area. Then three strong strokes from the thigh to the toe are performed on each leg. This sweeps and grounds any negative energy away from Rhyal.
Before massaging Rhyal’s tummy, Angela shows Mum how to locate the baby’s diaphragm. It is essential to keep the massage movements below this muscle. Positions for the diaphragm vary on babies. It could be below the belly button or above.
Once it is located, Angela shows Mum to massage with a ‘water wheel’ type movement. Then the intestines are massaged using a semi-circular motion, in the correct direction according to their flow. This will come in handy later if Rhyal ever gets an upset tummy.
When it is time to massage Rhyal’s chest, Mum asks for her permission and Rhyal clearly says, “No”. Oh, well. Maybe next time. Angela demonstrates the V-shaped chest massage movement on the doll for future reference.
Rhyal doesn’t like being placed on her tummy, so her back can be massaged while she is laying on her side or whilst being held in Mum’s arms.
Rhyal is teething, so Angela suggests a light, straight-fingered massage along the masseter muscle near the jaw. But Rhyal is exercising her right to say “no” today. Perhaps it’s too tender around that area.
When it’s time to massage the ears, Angela issues a warning. This can either make a baby really energetic or relax them. Rhyal’s ears are gently pulled from the centre outwards, starting from the top and working around to the lobe. She seems to really like this one.
The end of the massage is signified with a cuddle in Mum’s arms. Mum runs her hands across the width of Rhyal’s back and says, “This is how wide you are”, then from head to toe, saying, “This is how tall you are”.
Infant massage is very empowering for the young ones, placing them in the role of decision maker. While it serves to relax bubby, it is also a body awareness technique, making baby aware of the parameters of his or her new physical body. Infant massage should be demonstrated by a fully-qualified masseuse who specialises in infants.
By all reports, the technique was very effective. Rhyal slept like a baby that evening.