Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Certified Infant Massage Instructor - Realization of a Dream

When I was 16 years old, towards the end of my high school career, I spent some time working as a "Sunshine Lady" in the main Teaching Hospital in Cape Town. The end of my shift was my favorite. For the last hour or hour and half I had the joy of feeding the premature babies. Amongst the instructions we were given was that should a baby fall asleep prior to completing the allocated fluid (either water or expressed milk or formula), we were to flick his/her foot to wake the baby and encourage him/her to complete their feed.

Fairly quickly I discovered that the foot could be flicked to wake the baby but when massage helped to calm him / her. Rubbing the back also seemed to be beneficial both in the baby releasing wind and in settling to go to sleep.

After High School I spent a year in London working as an Au Pair. The family I worked for had a nearly 4 year old and a baby born 6 weeks after I arrived. Usually when one works as an Au Pair, certain hours are free for the Au Pair to learn the language of the country. Since English is my mother tongue, I spent this time doing various courses, one of them being a course in massage.

The massage I learned was taught on adults, however, shortly after doing the course, I discovered an invaluable use for this skill. The little baby I was taking care of had developed colic and was not responding to gripe water. Instinctively I began massaging his tummy and found it helped. Another wonderful tool was to consciously relax and do some deep breathing while walking around with him or rocking him. It was wonderful to find how the more relaxed and confident I was with him, the more he settled down. When, on the other hand, I got flustered by his crying for close to an hour, his crying continued. It felt so wonderful to help a baby in such an easy manner.

A few years later, as a qualified occupational therapist, I again found the invaluable benefit of massage and touch with a number of blind and hearing impaired children I worked with. When one sense is not working to its optimum, the other senses become more heightened and fine tuned. Appropriate and caring touch certainly showed to make a world of difference, especially in building trust between the therapist and child.

During this time, I worked with a woman who was having difficulties with her new born. The difficulties were most pronounced during feeding times and nursing. After an initial interview, it became evident that one difficulty was that the mother had expected her baby to be a certain gender and when it was born as the opposite, she went into a mourning period. Where was the baby she thought she was having? Two invaluable tools used where guided visualization and encouraging her to touch and look at her baby when nursing. It was wonderful to watch how the baby began to progress and develop facial expression in place of a blank glazed look.

Through my many years working in occupational therapy and alternative therapy I found tremendous satisfaction from teaching preventative health techniques, strategies and lifestyle. Amongst this, a few years ago, I worked on developing a program to combat Post Natal Depression and whilst doing so, was repeatedly asked if I could teach the Mom's to massage their babies. Since I had adapted the massage I had learned for adults on babies and used a lot of intuition, together with professional knowledge, I did not feel equipped to teach a specific sequence of massage to the mothers.

When I was back in South Africa to get married, my mother showed me an advert. "Learn how to teach infant massage with an instructor through an Internationally Recognized Organization". As things turned out, the next course was starting just as I returned to Israel. However, the course found it's way back to me.

I am delighted to say that I am now a Certified Infant Massage Instructor through the International Association of Infant Massage. Yes, I completed my course in Israel all in Hebrew.

I have already taught a number of mother's the course and the more I work with it the more the original joy and magic of this gift comes alive. Massaging ones own baby is the greatest gift a parent (both Moms and Dads) can give to their child. The benefits are clearly visible fairly quickly.

There is no sound more precious than the total silence of 5 or 6 babies completely content as their mommies learn the massage strokes, practicing on them of course. There is no greater satisfaction than hearing that an 8 week old baby who had not managed to sleep more than 5 minutes at a time and begun to sleep for 20 minutes then 3/4 hour then an hour and 20 minutes and finally was in a good sleep rhythm. All from being massaged by his parent.

It is wonderful to hear a new Mom relaxed and calm as she shares that her "hyperactive, super sensitive baby" is now an absolute bundle of joy.

Whether the baby is born premature or full term. Whether the baby is born healthy or with special needs. All babies benefit from Infant Massage. Yes there are a few precautions and yes there are certain guidelines. Hence the course that teaches mothers the dos and donts, the hows and whys.

If you have a baby, whether your first or your 8th or more, come on the Infant Massage Course. The course is only 5 sessions and the results will last a lifetime and even to the next generation.

For more details or to sign up for a class, please email Shoshanah.

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