The annual week for Infant Massage Awareness is taking place 11th - 17th September 2023 with Certified Infant Massage Instructors (CIMIs) from the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) sharing Nationwide, but why is it needed?
As the found of our association Vimala McClure once said, "Infant Massage is not a fad, it connects you deeply to the person who is you baby and it helps you to understand your baby’s particular nonverbal language and respond with love and respectful listening." You would be forgiven for thinking that baby massage is just another lovely class to go to with your baby, which it is, but it is far from a fad and the benefits go much much deeper. Raising awareness of the benefits and research, and working towards our mission that every parent and baby can experience the gift of nurturing touch, could quite literally change the world.
So what is Infant Massage?
Infant Massage, or baby massage, is when a parent or primary caregiver lovingly connects with their baby through a series of nurturing strokes, but it is so much more than the strokes. It is enhancing bonding and attachment, it is parent empowerment, it is babies feeling understood, improved relationships, better mental and physical health. It is an exchange of respect, love and empathy.
In the IAIM, our training and education honours the origins and cultural heritage of infant massage. It is an ancient art, we do not claim to have invented it, and with thanks to our founder Vimala’s vision for all families across the world to experience the benefits that she witnessed, the not-for-profit International Association of Infant Massage was born.
The many benefits of baby massage can be categorised in to four main categories for babies – stimulation, relief, relaxation and interaction but additionally there are benefits for the parent, wider family and even society as a whole. Did you know that research shows that infant massage could lead to a reduction in violence, vandalism, and crime?
Why is awareness needed?
As an IAIM trainer, I have had the privilege of certifying instructors from all walks of life. Typically on each training there will be a balance of health professionals (particularly from the perinatal field), government workers (such as family support workers) and charities, as well as those looking to work independently. It is widely recognised and researched that infant massage can be used as a tool for positive intervention for families in all situations and especially where extra support is needed. What’s more, it is an accessible, simple, and enjoyable activity that is fully inclusive to all. Raising awareness can ensure that budgets can be available to train these instructors who offer such valuable support to parents and to keep the classes running. As the pendulum swings it seems to be a constant shift between adding and cutting services. Awareness for supporting the early years and the lack of funding they receive is always essential and campaigns such as ‘Shaping Us’ and ‘The First 1001 Days Movement’ are helping to push the narrative, though more is always needed. We know that the first 3 years of life are the foundations for positive mental, social, cognitive and emotional health.
Additionally, we need all parents to identify baby massage as a priority for their post-natal activities. We are living through a maternity crisis, birth trauma is on the rise, parents are lonelier and less supported than ever. A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, November 2021, suggests that a mother’s sensitive caregiving after birth may erase some of the negative effects of stress during pregnancy and birth on newborns, and that enhancing sensitive caregiving should be a key target of postnatal intervention in order to reduce the consequences of prenatal adversity on child development. Even in the most positive situations, parents can often question their intuition and the curriculum of our programme encourages them, as the experts of their babies, to read and understand their babies different states and unique cues which helps to build self-esteem, raise confidence and generally result in happier, more relaxed babies and parents. In group settings, parenting together offers reassurance, companionship and that village that we hear so much about.
Celebrating Infant Massage Awareness Week
So please get involved this Infant Massage Awareness Week! Share information, let your pregnant or new parent friends or clients know, write to your local MP about funding, support a local class and help us work towards our mission:
“The IAIM mission statement is: ‘The purpose of the International Association of Infant Massage is to promote nurturing touch and communication through training, education and research; so parents, caregivers and children are loved, valued and respected throughout the world community.”
Connected Babies offer Baby Massage Instructor Training in the UK on behalf of the IAIM