Everyone loves to hold a baby. And these days people are becoming more intentional about how they do it. More and more hospitals, parents, and professionals who work with babies are learning the art of infant massage, a tradition in many cultures that has long been known for its soothing effect on infants.
Ticia Shelton, an infant massage instructor in Winona who is certified with the International Association of Infant Massage, describes infant massage as "intentional and loving touch." She says that this type of touch, or massage, provides a physiological benefit to babies that complements and enhances the benefits they receive from being held.
"When you massage a baby you are working his muscles. You also stimulate blood flow and the lymph system. This is really good for a baby's overall health and provides many benefits. One that parents like the best is that babies who are massaged regularly are known to sleep better," says Shelton.
Winona parents Mindy and Jeff Reinardy have begun to use infant massage with their son, Dane. Dane was born nine weeks premature a year ago. Reinardy says that she and her husband have incorporated massage into Dane's physical therapy regimen. They choose a time of day for massage when Dane is not fussy and let him play while they massage his legs and feet. Reinardy says that she thinks the benefits of infant massage are so positive that she wishes she would have started when Dane was younger.
Research backs up Reinardy's enthusiasm for infant massage. Studies from the United States and Britain show that premature infants who receive regular massage gain weight more quickly than infants who are not massaged. One study also showed that regularly massaged infants are able to calm themselves more easily that their non-massaged counterparts.
Anyone can learn infant massage. Massage simply takes parents' instinct to stroke their babies one step further to incorporate the whole body. If you would like to try a massage routine with your baby, it is a good idea to read a book about infant massage or watch a video produced by an experienced infant massage instructor before starting. Books and videos about infant massage are available on loan from Baby Connections (453-0301), Winona ECFE (494-0900), and the Winona Public Library.
Parents and others can also take advantage of upcoming massage classes taught by Shelton through Winona Community Education (494-0900). Shelton also schedules private infant massage classes for parents and others. She can be reached at 457-8168.