Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2010

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ten for today BY REBECCA JONES INFANT MASSAGE Vimala McClure first recognized the value of massage for babies when she was working in an orphanage in India in the early 1970s. Babies with few other advantages in this world were lulled into sleep each night with a massage before bedtime. A young woman with no children of her own at the time, McClure tucked what she saw away for future reference. Later, as a new mother back in the United States with a fussy baby on her hands, she drew on what she learned in India, learned a few other techniques from some massage therapist friends, tried it out on her son, resolved his colic … and launched a movement. McClure, now retired and living in Boulder, Colorado, is hailed as the mother of infant massage in the United States. "I turned my attention to the animal kingdom, how mammals touch their young, and what it means," McClure says. "Most mammals lick and touch their babies as soon as they're born. A lot of people think that's for cleaning them, but it's not. It's getting their gastrointestinal functions going, and other things we don't think much about. The rubbing of massage is just like the licking that goes on with, say, a mother cat and her kittens. It stimulates the organs inside and helps them function the way they're supposed to." Today, techniques vary, but no one disputes the extraordinary benefits for these tiniest of massage recipients, and many therapists are drawn to the field. Some specialize in therapeutic massage for medically at-risk infants and children, often performed in hospitals. Some specialize in massage for pregnant women, recognizing that babies benefit even while in the womb when their mothers are massaged. And many specialize in teaching new mothers and fathers the techniques they need to massage their own infants. For massage therapists interested in moving their practices in this direction, following are some things to consider. 1. SPECIALIzED TRAINING REqUIRED "Babies are very different from your adult clients," says Tina Allen, founder of Liddle Kidz Foundation, an organization based in Vancouver, Washington, that trains therapists in infant massage and therapeutic touch techniques for babies and children. "Basic training as a massage therapist simply isn't enough to work with infants and children." A number of organizations promote infant and child massage, including Liddle Kidz (liddlekidz. com), the International Association of Infant Massage (, the International Loving Touch Foundation (, the American Pregnancy Massage Association (, MotherMassage (mothermassage. net), and Baby's First Massage ( to name a few. Contact one or more of these organizations to look into certification. Hands-on training—not just online course work—is vital, say practitioners. "This is not something to be taken lightly," says Diana B. Moore, director of the International Loving Touch Foundation in Portland, Oregon. 2. LEARN To SPEAk "BABY" Whether teaching parents how to massage their babies or actually working on the infants yourself, it's imperative to understand their nonverbal cues. Eye-to-eye contact, smiling, reaching toward the caregiver, cooing, and babbling—these are all signs that a baby is receptive to massage. "When you see that, that's when you see the magic happen between mom and baby, versus a baby who is not ready, who might turn away, not make eye contact, arching their back, crying," Moore says. These are all potent disengagement cues. Trying to massage a crying baby is an unpleasant experience." Teresa Kirkpatrick Ramsey, founder of Baby's First Massage in Dayton, Ohio, calls the communication between baby and massage giver listening touch. "Our hands are like big ears," she says. "When we touch, we're really feeling for the texture of the baby's skin, the temperature. We're observing with our eyes as we're feeling for receptivity to 78 massage & bodywork september/october 2010

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