"Every child, no matter the age, should be massaged at bedtime on a regular basis.” So says Tiffany Field, PhD, of the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Florida. Field and her associates at TRI have worked diligently over the past decade to prove the benefits of massage for children. But this is not a new concept. Infant massage has long been a common practice in many cultures. Many indigenous tribes use some form of bodywork to soothe, relax, and heal their little ones, sometimes including scented oils and herbal remedies as part of the experience.
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.
If your client has given birth by Cesarean section (C-section), she has scars that need to heal. The surface scar, unless there are physical complications such as infection, will heal automatically. Deeper scarring, both physical and emotional, may take more work and conscious effort from both you and your client. To recover from a C-section, and to prepare for subsequent pregnancy and birth, your client needs to heal on all levels—from deep-tissue healing to releasing emotions related to the surgery. Your job as a bodyworker is to facilitate and nurture her through this process.
Much of what we have learned over the past decade about the physiological and psychological effects of massage therapy has been generated by researchers at the Touch Research Institute (TRI) in Miami, Fla. Their investigations cover a wide range of medical conditions, subjects, and ages, in a variety of applications. We know from these studies, for instance, that massage appears to reduce anxiety and depression, positively alter biochemical markers, and stimulate growth in preterm infants.
Author’s note: With greater societal acceptance of complementary therapies, many more doors have opened for massage therapists. I went through one of those doors when I became a certified infant massage instructor in the Perinatal and Neonatal Units at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., where I have practiced since 1992. This is my story.
Sometimes the most daunting tasks are the most rewarding. Cultural barriers surrounding touch, old habits promoting unhealthy environments, a lack of resources and funds, and the overabundance of unwanted children made Vonda Jump’s work all the more difficult. A Utah State University research associate in the College of Education, Jump didn’t mind the obstacles. In fact, they made her more determined to discover whether or not touch could change a child’s life. Her research subjects: The children of Ecuador’s orphanages.
A parent’s touch holds great power. The soothing massage of a mother’s hand can calm a fussy infant. A child’s fevered brow may be cooled by the gentle stroke of her father’s palm. And in too many unfortunate cases, a child may be physically hurt and abused by a striking blow from his parent. A natural conduit for emotions, touch or the lack thereof transmits important information about the parent/child bond, whether one of acceptance or rejection.
Pregnancy is a beautiful and natural condition — nine transformative months full of excitement, planning and peering at the awesome unfolding of life. But this transformation also brings inevitable side effects, sometimes making a woman feel like her body has been taken over by an alien force. In the early months, there are mood swings from ecstasy to unpredictable crying; in later months, there are aches and pains more common to the domain of the elderly.