The purpose of the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) is to promote nurturing touch and communication through training, education and research so that parents, caregivers and children are loved, valued and respected throughout the world community.
Included in the mission statement above are some of the crucial benefits of infant massage not only to the baby but also to the parents and society at large.
These benefits can be broken down as:
As with any massage, infant massage involves the rubbing of a baby’s skin, muscles and joints with one’s hands in a gentle and rhythmic way.
However, the IAIM technique of infant massage also encourages parents to maintain communication with their baby throughout the massage using both verbal (talking and singing to the baby) and non-verbal cues (for instance through eye contact and smiling).
Through this interaction, infant massage becomes a holistic way for a parent or caregiver to bond with a baby.
By using different styles of touch and movement, infant massage is able to stimulate various systems in the body including the circulatory and digestive systems. It can also stimulate muscular development growth, and mind and body awareness.
The strokes used in infant massage can provide relief from different types of discomfort caused by conditions such as colic, constipation, muscular growing pains and even teething.
Regularly massaging a baby can lead to improved sleep patterns, less stress hormones and a calmer baby who is also able self-soothe more easily.
Infant massage fosters feelings of love, respect and being valued within a child
Before the beginning of any massage session, a parent is encouraged to seek permission from the baby before proceeding with the massage. This may seem inane, especially because the baby will not be able to respond verbally but it is still very important to teach a child from an early age that their body belongs to them, and they have the right to stop someone else, even a parent, from touching them if they don’t want it.
During the IAIM infant massage classes, parents are taught to rub their hands together in front of the baby’s face as they ask the question “Can I please massage you now?” The baby will eventually associate the rubbing of the hands with the beginning of a massage session and they will respond using several non-verbal cues, such as smiling and reaching for the hands (a sign the baby wants the massage) or by clasping their hands across their chest and looking away (a sign the baby does not want the massage). The parent is then expected to respond appropriately. If the baby refuses the massage, then the parent needs to respect this response and find an alternative way of putting the baby ease like holding them in a reassuring way.
These interactive pro-social behaviour and communication skills taught by the massage routine help foster self respect and empathy, leading to these children becoming responsible, caring adults.