There's a good reason why so many people like the idea of becoming a Baby Massage Therapist. Research has shown that when a person massages a baby there is a release of endorphins, the bodies 'feel-good' hormone. Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body and essentially when you think of how wonderful it would be to become a Baby Massage Therapist, this is the feeling that is coming to mind.
When you train in baby massage, you learn to acknowledge the fact that while it would be awesome (for you) to spend each day massaging babies, this isn't considered best practice because providing massage to a baby yourself doesn't achieve the best outcomes for your clients.
People trained in baby massage are trained to work with parents and teach them how to provide massage. There are number of reasons for this:
- Parents have the most success with infants during massage as babies are more comfortable and relaxed when being handled by their parent.
- Babies will not keep to appointment times and cannot be forced to receive massage at an inappropriate time (for example, when they want to feed, sleep or just do not want massage).
- Massage cannot last for a predetermined or set amount of time. The length of each massage has to be based on the baby's response cues (some massages can be extremely short).
- For massage to be most effective, parents need to massage at opportune moments when they recognise the baby is in what is referred to as a 'quiet alert state' (this usually occurs after a nap or for newborn infants may be after a feed following their nap).
- Liability is vastly different when providing massage directly as opposed to allowing parents to massage their own child.
- One of the most important benefits of massage for infants is the impact it has on bonding and attachment. Children need to bond with their parents as opposed to a therapist.
- Children are able to begin learning lessons about appropriate touch from infancy and as massage is an intimate form of touch (i.e. skin to skin and stroking on the skin) it is best this comes from someone the child is familiar and comfortable with.
- There are benefits experienced by the parents when massaging, including increased confidence, reduction in stress hormone levels, increased attachment and bond with the baby, reduction in symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety.
- Parents need to know how to assist when needed. For example, in the instance where a baby has wind pain in the middle of the night and parents are unable to call and have a therapist come over and help.
- Ideally, infants receive a small amount of massage once or twice a day, every day as opposed to periodically (as would be done in massage appointments).
Learning about and appreciating why it is important for parents to learn massage techniques (as opposed to providing massage directly as a therapist) is one of the most interesting aspects of training in baby massage. Coincidentally, it is also a topic that Infant Massage Instructors and Paediatric Massage Consultants tend to become more passionate about the longer they are in the industry.
Ultimately, achieving the best outcomes for both parent and child is the most important thing.
Research has shown there are many ways that infants and their families can benefit from baby massage. If this is work you would like to be involved in, you need to complete training as a Certified Infant Massage Instructor or Paediatric Massage Consultant.
Training can be completed through the Infant Massage Information Service via a 3-day intensive course (held in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Gold Coast and Brisbane) or training is available for students internationally via correspondence.
Both Infant Massage Instructors and Paediatric Massage Consultants are able to work with parents, teaching massage techniques for infants and older children. Consultants are also able to provide short presentations to professional groups, educating them on the benefits of massage and helping to address common myths and outdated information about baby massage.
Students complete either 3 or 4 competency tasks depending on the qualification they wish to obtain (3 for instructors and 4 for consultants). Tasks involve successfully demonstrating all massage techniques on a demonstration doll, completing a practice teaching session with a volunteer parent and infant, completion of a multiple choice theory exam and for consultant students, preparation of a 1-hour talk directed towards a relevant professional group (for example, nursing staff, early childhood educators, social workers, natural therapists, occupational therapists etc).
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