Infant massage is a therapeutic and nurturing practice that has been used for centuries to promote bonding and communication between caregivers and their babies. In recent years, research has shown that infant massage can also have a range of physiological and psychological benefits for both infants and caregivers. Certified Infant Massage Instructors and Paediatric Massage Consultants play a critical role in teaching parents and caregivers the techniques and benefits of infant massage.
Infant massage is the systematic tactile stimulation of an infant's body by human hands, often combined with other forms of stimulation like rocking, kinaesthetic stimulation, talking or eye contact (Vickers 2004). This practice has been used in various cultures across the globe throughout history, making it challenging to trace its origins.
Traditional infant massage has been used as an alternative therapy to try and cure fever in children in South Kalimantan, Indonesia (Indrayadi 2018). In China, records of paediatric massage date back to 581-907 AD to the Sui/Tang dynasty, where it was used to promote health and wellbeing as a part of traditional medicine (Cline, 1999). In Nepal, traditional techniques involve using force to stretch an infant's limbs during massage to strengthen bones, clean skin and regulate temperature (Mullany et al., 2005).
Infant massage gained popularity in the Western world in the 1970s and 1980s as a therapeutic practice, inspired by the work of Dr Frederick Leboyer, a French obstetrician who emphasised the importance of touch and communication between parents and infants. Today, infant massage is recognised worldwide as a therapeutic and nurturing activity for both infants and caregivers.
Touching is an essential part of caring for an infant and is a powerful medium for communicating emotions between two people. However, touch behaviour can vary from one person to another and may be affected by variables such as stress levels and personal history (Hertenstein, 2002).
The ultimate goal of infant massage is to encourage appropriate responses to infants' cues and foster a positive, intimate, and connected relationship between parents and their babies (Shai D, 2014).
Vickers A, Ohlsson A, Lacy JB, Horsley A. Massage for promoting growth and development of preterm and/or low birth-weight infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. (2004) 2004:CD000390. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000390.pub2
Indrayadi, Indrayadi. "Traditional Infant Massage in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan." Mid-International Conference on Public Health 2018, Surakarta, Indonesia, April 2018. Sebelas Maret University, 2018, p. 207, doi:10.26911/mid.icph.2018.03.43.
Cline K. (1999) Chinese Massage for Infants and Children. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.
Mullany L. Darmstadt G. Khatry S., Tielsch J. (2005) Traditional Massage of Newborns in Nepal: Implications for Trials of Improved Practice. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics. 51(2):82–86.
Hertenstein M. (2002) Touch: its communicative functions in infancy. Human Development, 45:70-94.
Shai D (2014) “Infant Massage: Is the Medium the Message?”, International Journal of Birth and Parent Education. 1(5):31-34