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A Guide to Infant and Child Massage

What is infant and child massage?

Similar to adult massages, infant and child massage involves a combination of relaxing strokes, light kneading, and gentle squeezing. The strokes can be done throughout the lifespan, but are most common in infants and young children.

Who performs infant massage?

Certified Infant Massage Instructors teach parents and caregivers how to perform specific massage strokes to help their child. Once trained, parents and caregivers are able to complete these strokes at home on their child. Parents and caregivers can also teach siblings the techniques to improve further sibling bonding and family time!

Benefits of infant massage:

1. Interaction: may promote interaction between parent and child by helping learn and understand cues. This may improve bonding and attachment between parents and child.

2. Relief: massage may help relieve discomfort from gas, colic, and reflux. It may help tone the digestive tract and stimulate the release of insulin (a food absorption hormone). This results in decreased constipation and gas discomfort. Massage may also release endorphins which help ease pain and emotional distress.

Specific strokes may help with:

  • Constipation
  • Muscle tension
  • Growing pains
  • Teething
  • Sinus congestion
  • Excess mucus

3. Relaxation: massage helps balance our autonomic nervous system by releasing hormones. Massage may help relieve tension in a child’s body from all the stimulation and sensory integration that takes place in their daily environment. Massage may promote relaxation through better sleeping patterns, reducing stress hormones, and regulating behavioral states.

4. Stimulation: the skin is the largest organ of the body and skin sensitivity is the earliest developed function and the most crucial sensory system for overall healthy development.

Massage may stimulate and improve:

  • Body awareness
  • Sensory integration
  • Muscle tone
  • Motor control
  • Tolerance to self-care activities (brushing teeth, washing face, combing hair, trimming nails)
  • Cardiac and respiratory output; improve blood circulation
  • Faster weight gain
  • Neurological development; enhance development of the nervous system
  • Immune function
  • Alertness/heightened awareness

How to massage a child

Massage strokes are completed on the arms and hands, legs and feet, belly, chest, back, and face with the use of oil. It is recommended to use a vegetable oil as it is natural and will absorb directly into your child’s skin. Vegetable oils are also safe if your child gets it in their eyes or mouth. It is recommended you do not use nut-based oils as your child may have an allergic reaction. Grapeseed oil is a widely accepted oil used in many NICU’s around the country.

What will I need to massage my child?

Infant and child massage is designed to be a positive experience for both child and parent or caregiver. All you need to massage your child is a vegetable oil of your choosing, pillows or blankets to keep your child comfortable, a non-distracting environment (i.e. turn off the TV, lower the lights, etc.), and just 15 minutes a day.

If you are interested in infant and child massage, call our office to schedule an appointment with a Certified Child and Infant Massage Instructor, today!

Macaulay Schifferdecker, MS, OTR/L, CIMI