Updated: Mar 20
We are certainly living in unprecedented, uncertain and challenging times. I doubt there will be a soul on this planet unaffected in some way by Coronovirus Covid-19. As a self-employed small business owner, most of my work has ceased immediately, and I took the heart-breaking decision to cancel all of our baby massage classes when the Government advised to avoid non-essential social contact.
I have seen beauty amid the concern. Communities rallying, petitions for a fairer society, concern for our vulnerable and the rise of the virtual course! I am pleased that so many businesses may be able to keep their heads above the water during this crisis but there are good reasons as to why Connected Babies massage course will never go online.
The International Association of Infant Massage, who I am certified with, is the biggest, longest standing Association dedicated solely to Infant Massage. We are the gold standard in Infant Massage Training and Courses and we got there because we keep parents and babies at the heart of everything we do. Our Association have stated that we are always, and will remain always, a face to face programme and here are 5 good reasons why:
Connection is our core message. Nothing can replace face-to-face connection. The human touch that takes place in our classes goes far beyond physical touch, it’s a presence. Through shared learning experiences, class discussions and the value that is gained through sharing space with other parents and babies, we see the benefits. Parents are never only observing the instructor in class but watching each other and observing the babies’ responses. We are so much more than simply massage strokes. We can learn just about anything online but we are beginning to lack in true experiences. Connection not only to your baby and each other but to the calm and positive environment we create in IAIM classes.
Gold Standard Instruction
During each massage class, receiving feedback (both directly and indirectly) about the interactions taking place between you and your baby are key factors in improving parents’ self-esteem, confidence and gaining an understanding of babies’ verbal and non-verbal language. As parents are immersed in connection with their babies, instructors are subtly observing their strokes and babies’ reactions and can provide gentle suggestion of adjustments to the strokes or invitations to observe their babies’ communication, helping parents to identify their babies’ engagement and disengagement cues. I would not be satisfied that I could provide the best support possible doing this virtually. Reading and feeling each other’s micro expressions is essential. Our instructors and trainers are trained to an exceptional standard to deliver the best available programme, face to face.
I hold up my hands, I spend far too much time in front of a screen. I am an addict. I take some solace in the fact that people are paid to sit in small rooms and work out how to increase the dopamine hit I get from scrolling my screen in order to make me even more addicted and make them even more money. I’m not here to judge your screen time, but I can identify that screens have become a very distracting part of our lives with our little ones. A wonderful way to capture every moment of their development, but equally a main offender in taking our attention away from our babies. Infant massage is an opportunity for one to one undivided attention and connection with our babies in the busy modern world. It’s our moment to fully engage, connect, bond, relax and observe. I always encourage parents to turn their phones off or put them away during massage time, not on silent, not on vibrate, notifications distract us. Be fully present so that babies feel truly valued. Our phones often inhibit us being able to truly relax and switch off and screens are undoubtedly a distraction in the room.
Research from Infant Massage states “The mechanisms for change underpinning intervention programmes have been identified as key to their effectiveness (Mayeske & Lambur, 2001). Fourteen such mechanisms were identified as being important in terms of the effectiveness of Infant Massage programmes (Underdown & Barlow, 2011), such as the use of personal invitations, delivery by the same facilitator, the setting meeting the physical needs of the mother-infant dyads, the facilitator having the necessary qualities and skills, and the teaching involved about learning about infant states and cues. Support from other Mothers and having an opportunity to discuss issues with peers and the facilitator were important to programme participants, many of whom were socially isolated“
We should never underestimate the importance of touch, of presence, of non-verbal communication. Supporting that parent to step forward and say something encouraged by a gentle smile or eye contact, catching a shared moment with a parent as a baby reaches out to them or squeals with delight, creating a calm and nurturing space for families to switch off and be present. These are the things that separate our programme from others and allow the research to list the IAIM as a “high quality programme”. The people who truly make a difference in our lives touch us with their presence. We cannot know which mechanisms make our programme so successful and therefore we cannot risk missing out any of them.
Of course the cake makes the list! Seriously though, I cannot tell you how many parents comment on how much of a luxury it is to receive a hot cup of tea, that they didn’t have to microwave, have it bought to them and enjoy it with a fresh home-made cake! It is these little touches, nurturing our families, that make Connected Babies classes so special.
So am I suggesting parents shouldn’t learn infant massage in this unusual situation? Not at all. If parents want to use the available resources out there in order to massage their babies then that is parental choice, but Connected Babies will not be offering a substandard class, even when it means having to close down my business for the foreseeable future, and struggle as so many of us are about to, I value our programme and I value parents and babies too much.
If you are looking to learn some infant massage away from the screen, I highly recommended our Founder Vimala’s book 'Infant Massage: a handbook for loving parents' and always remember that you cannot go wrong instinctively touching and enjoying skin to skin with your babies.
Stay safe and well! I am looking forward to the isolation baby boom in 9 months or so to make up for this period of uncertainty! Whether our association's position adjusts over time, I can’t be sure, but Connected Babies will see you back in the real world, as soon as possible and will be reaching out in the virtual world in other ways to ensure our community do not feel isolated.
Photo Credit: Sadie Wild Photography captures our classes
Connected Babies offer Instructor Training with the International Association of Infant Massage and family classes in North London and Hertfordshire