By: Sapna Fliedner MSN, HHC
Every evening in our home, our nightly ritual consists of me giving my two daughters a massage. Since they were young, we made this part of their bedtime routine. Still today, whether we are on vacation, away from home or visiting family, they still expect this.
Infant massage has been used by the cultures of Africa and the East to soothe, relax and heal their infants for many years. Touch is the first sense that develops in human babies and those who do not receive enough of it may fall ill or die. Infant massage consists of strokes and massage techniques that enhance physiological and psychological development. It also promotes a strong and healthy bond between parent and child. Being born in India, my mother would tell me stories of how a masseuse would come to our home and massage my mother and I in the first days after birth. This was a common ritual.
The Benefits Of Massaging Infants And Children
According to Maria Hernandez-Reif of the Touch Research Institute (TRI), infants and children should be given a massage at least once daily. The benefits of this include:
– A reduction of stress in infants and children. Stress can come from schooling, illness, vacations, or family problems such as divorce. High levels of stress are known to adversely affect the immune system.
– Children who receive regular massages tend to have elevated mood levels. They are more relaxed and sleep better. It is also known that humans that are excluded from basic touch at an early age are more prone to depression and illness.
– Massage helps the mind to remain calm and alert throughout the day.
– It relieves colic, circulatory problems and digestive problems.
– It is a completely natural healing practice and thus has no side effects at all.
– Regular massage promotes better circulation, which has many health benefits.
Massage And Children With Special Needs
Studies done at the TRI have shown that massage can benefit children with special needs as well as pre-term infants. Pre-term, cocaine-exposed and HIV-positive babies showed more weight gain, decreased stress behavior and improved motor skills.
Because stress tends to worsen the symptoms of chronic illness, lowering stress levels through massage helps to reduce these symptoms. Studies conducted by the TRI suggest that parents should give nightly massages to their children with chronic illnesses. In the study, these children all showed improvements in their symptoms and lowered anxiety levels. Other studies show that massage increases the amount of cells that travel through the body destroying tumors and other unhealthy objects present there.
Massage And ADHD
It is estimated that 3-7% of children suffer from ADHD. It is one of the primary causes of behavioral problems in general pediatric settings. ADHD kids display poor social and academic skills, suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, and are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse problems. Medications used to combat ADHD may relieve symptoms but they also produce side effects such as restlessness, sleeplessness, hallucinations and seizures. Studies conducted at the TRI have shown that massage can be used as an effective natural substitute to ADHD medications.
Massage And Cancer
Massage in general has been known to have a therapeutic effect on cancer patients. Studies show that it can reduce symptoms and improve the healing process. It is commonly used as a pain management strategy in patients diagnosed with leukemia. Studies concerning breast cancer patients also show that it reduces pain, depression and anger.
Massage And The Immune System
A “lymph massage” is an effective way to boost the immune system in order to fight off colds and illnesses through the winter season. Only one or two sessions are required to affect noticeable immune system improvements. Lymph nodes are found all over the body and their purpose is to rid the body of harmful germs, viruses and bacteria. Illness, stress, poor diet and recent surgery can cause them to work more slowly and less efficiently. Lymph massage livens up the immune system so that it can perform its functions optimally. It also helps to reduce fatigue and stress.
Tips On Massaging Infants And Children
The website Idibidikids.com suggests something called a “permission sequence” that should be used before massaging your child. This is a way for adults to obtain permission first. The permission sequence involves asking the child directly if he or she would like a massage. The child’s body language will tell the adult whether they are in the mood for it or not. Certified infant massage instructor Natalie Garmson shows adults how to correctly perform the permission sequence in her video “The Permission Sequence.” One this sequence has been completed, the massage may begin.
Infants’ bodies should be lightly stroked and the pressure applied should be minimal. As the child grows older the pressure can be increased slightly and include the feet, fingers and toes. The massage should always take place in a calm and quiet environment. For ADHD children, a 4-minute massage involving moderate pressure on the neck, head, torso, arms, legs and back is recommended.
Home massages can be supplemented with professional massages. This is a great way for parents to learn new massage techniques. Most professionals offer lessons to parents as well.
I feel that massage is so important that everyone should be getting weekly massages. In Ayurveda, massage is the key to preventing stagnant lymph blockages, which in turn can prevent cancers due to blocked lymph nodes and reducing toxicity. If your drains are clogged, how are you getting the garbage out?
- Shirley Vanderbilt, Children and massage: A powerful combination, www.massagetherapy.com, http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/470/Children-and-Massage
- What is infant massage?, www.idibidikids.com, http://www.idibidikids.com.au/infantmassage.htm#whatisinfantmassage
- Cathy Ulrich, Helping children find focus: massage calms ADHD kids, www.massagetherapy.com, http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/929/Helping-Children-Find-Focus
- Hamon smith, massage therapy benefits for kids, www.ezinearticles.com, http://ezinearticles.com/?Massage-Therapy-Benefits-For-Kids&id=4462949
- Kathleen Hall, massage therapy for cancer patients, www.qualityhealth.com, http://www.qualityhealth.com/cancer-articles/massage-therapy-cancer-patients
- Karrie Osborn, Lymph massage: armoring the immune system, www.massagetherapy.com, http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/937/Lymph-Massage