Infant massage helps relax mom and baby

charley@beaufortgazette.comJuly 24, 2012 

  • "Learn to Massage Your Baby" classes -- for infants 3 weeks old to crawling -- are offered in Beaufort and Bluffton.

    The Bluffton classes are 10-11:30 a.m. Aug. 3, Aug. 10, Aug. 17 and Aug. 24 at Bluffton Medical Services, Westbury Financial Park, 11 Arley Way, Suite 102, Bluffton.

    The Beaufort classes are 6-7:30 p.m. on Aug. 6, Aug. 13, Aug. 20 and Aug. 27 at Beaufort Medical Plaza Third Floor Classroom 350-C on the campus of Beaufort Memorial Hospital, 989 Ribaut Road, Beaufort.

    The cost is $60 for all four classes. Details: Dixie Slichter at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, 843-522-5570 or dlslichter@bmhsc.org. The instructor is Alyson Wiggins, a certified educator of infant massage, twomorehands@gmail.com, www.infantmassageusa.org

  • Before beginning a massage, Alyson Wiggins, certified educator of infant massage, teaches parents how to recognize the various states of awareness of babies and when a baby might be more accepting of a massage. "If they are squirmy and fussy, it is not the right time for a massage," Wiggins said.

  • Use an organic cold pressed olive oil (can be found on the oil isle of local grocery stores) or unscented fruit vegetable oil because they have vitamin E. "Also we don't want the baby to get too slippery," Wiggins said.

  • Each class focuses on a different part of the body beginning with the legs which are almost always kicking in babies. Reflexology is used to relieve stress throughout the body by rubbing the feet gently. "Use enough pressure that it doesn't tickle, but not too much where it hurts," Wiggins said of the massage on the tiny toes and feet.

  • Parents should never be concerned about their babies behaving in Wiggins' class. Babies are allowed to cry, eat, sleep or play during class, Wiggins said.

Infants can feel stressed out just like the rest of us -- whether it be from sensing their mother's anxiety, from colic pain or even from being hungry.

"Believe it or not, babies do have stress in their lives," said Alyson Wiggins, who will teach two infant massage classes in Beaufort and Bluffton starting in August.

Infant massage offers parents a way to help their babies relax. Wiggins, a Beaufort resident, became an infant massage instructor in 2009 after seeing how it helped her three children.

"Massage can benefit healthy babies, and it is also appropriate for babies with various medical conditions, but a pediatrician should be consulted before enrolling in a baby massage class," Wiggins said.

Patti Valentini, director at Beaufort Memorial Hospital's birthing center, said she wished she had known about infant massage when her six children were babies.

"It is a new concept to Beaufort, but it is great for mothers and babies and teaches them both how to relax," she said.

Massage also can help mom and baby bond.

"Sitting down and spending quiet little moments with your baby is as much beneficial for the mom as it is for the baby," Valentini said. "It is sometimes more beneficial for the mom. ... She can let the worries of the world go away for a few minutes."

After the birth of her second child, Wiggins was living in Charleston and looking for an activity in which both she and her newborn could participate. She had been homebound for two months and wanted to get out and meet other parents with children the same age. She knew firsthand the benefits of massage through the prenatal massages that had helped to relieve her circulation problems and the other discomforts of pregnancy.

Wiggins witnessed the miracles of massage on her baby as well as that of others. She said she also formed a stronger bond with her baby because of it.

Although infant massage offers physical, emotional and social benefits for parents, it is not a treatment for any medical condition, Wiggins said. But massage can provide relief from colic.

"If I had a colicky baby, I would highly recommend trying something like that versus going right to medication for everything," Valentini said.

Kristi Rosengarten signed up for the class with her infant Anna Kate to meet others with common interests.

"The initial reason was really for me to have a reason to get out of the house with my newborn and socialize," Rosengarten said. "It was great to not only learn about the importance of massage for babies, but also to be able to talk with other moms."

She found friends and more.

"I am very thankful for the tummy massage strokes," she said. "It really helps. ... Massage time gives us a great calming segue into our bedtime routine. After bath time, I ask Anna Kate, 'Are you ready for your massage?' A grin covers her face and many times she coos and 'talks' while I rub her little body. It is a great bonding experience."

Wiggins is certified through www.infantmassageusa.org. She has been teaching classes for three years.

"I saw benefits physically and emotionally for my whole family," she said. "We have each taken turns massaging the baby."

During a recent private infant massage class, nursery rhyme music played softly while Suzanne Howard and her 8-year-old daughter Payton learned to massage 2-month-old William.

Wiggins demonstrated on a baby doll how to "milk the legs," a technique used to increase blood flow to the baby's entire body. It helps build muscle and relieves stress.

The mother and daughter took turns massaging the baby's leg. Payton cooed at her little brother as he smiled and kicked.

"It is very relaxing for William," Howard said.

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