I often get asked if I offer taster sessions or drop-in classes. I don't and here is why.....
Baby massage is more than massaging babies...
When this dialogue and attunement between a parent and their baby is established the benefits of Baby Massage can really start flowing, including:
For your baby
The benefits from this attunement and nurturing touch with our babies won't stop there though, they can extend into calming, reducing cortisol levels, boosting immunity, promoting brain development, supporting language and learning, increasing social and emotional resilience as adults, and so much more... this really is a life-long parenting skill with life-long benefits!
A baby-led interaction built up slowly over five-weeks
During my Sunflower Baby Massage courses I facilitate a quiet and nurturing space so that this baby-led interaction, that is unique to each parent and their baby, can be built up slowly over the five-weeks to promote confidence, empowerment and attunement and all the benefits that come with these.... and this is why I do not offer taster sessions and drop-in classes ~ it would be so hard to give a true sense of what this practice is all about because we could never establish all of the above in one session and instead, this means the opposite may occur and parents could feel pressured to conform and therefore their babies may feel pressured to perform, (see my February blog: How to stop comparing and get back to basics with our babies), and so the essence of what Baby Massage is all about as a touch communication could be missed, and therefore all the benefits along with it may also be missed out on.
This is why I believe a baby-led approach both benefits our babies and empowers us as the experts of our children ~ my training with the International Association of Infant Massage taught me this and this is why IAIM Baby Massage sets a world class standard for not only it's teachings and training promoting nurturing touch and touch communication across the world, but also for its contribution into touch research for early parent-child relationships.
What I can offer....
Other than coming on a Sunflower Baby Massage course and experiencing all of this yourself with your baby, I am also available to offer talks on the benefits and essence of Baby Massage, the role of nurturing touch for easing our babies transition from womb-to-world, baby well-being and the Fourth Trimester ~ so if you would like to find out more about this beautiful practice then I would love to share all the wonders of nurturing touch with you, whether you're expecting, have a new baby in your arms or a professional working with new parents I'd love to hear from you.
On that note, I'll close this blog with a few words of wisdom from the IAIM founder, Vimala McClure:
"Infant massage is not a fad. It is an ancient art that connects you deeply with the person who is your baby and helps you to understand your baby's non-verbal language and respond with love and respectful listening.
It empowers you as a parent, for it gives you the means by which you become an expert on your own child and therefore can respond according to your baby's unique needs.
A child whose voice is heard, whose heart is full, and who is
enveloped in love, over flows with that love and naturally, unselfconsciously gives of himself to others.
The deep emotional bonds formed in infancy lay a foundation for a lifetime of compassion, trust, dependability and love.”
Sunflower Baby Massage
Certified Infant Massage Instructor
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INFANT MASSAGE
As a Mum of two I often find myself striving for parenting perfection, but what is this notion of the perfect parent that we all seem to be striving to? Who’s perfection am I striving to reach? Mine? My children’s? My family’s? My friend’s?... Societies?
In our fast-paced Western society we seem to have such high expectations of perfection and put so much pressure on ourselves to be, or at least seem to be, smiley and shiny all the time - to have it all 'sorted' from the word go… However, in reality this is not realistic and can cause undue feelings of isolation, self-doubt and guilt.
It's just a phase....
One of my most used phrases since having my two is, 'it's just a phase'... From my experience, I believe in taking one day at a time, with each day bringing something new and something different for us to love, learn, contend with or rejoice… or as I often find, experience all four in a single moment – emotional overload! Ultimately, parenting is a journey, a personal journey that should be centred individually around us and our children as they grow.
There seems to be so much advice and guidance (and opinion) given to us from professionals, family, friends and the media on how we should or should not be caring for and responding to our babies, so much so that we can feel almost detached from our own instinctive abilities and therefore lose trust in ourselves and in our babies - especially when the advice we're given is so often contradictory making caring for our babies even more confusing! Not to mention the added pressure all of this puts on us and our babies to conform and perform so that we can ultimately reach this notion of parenting perfection.
Lets get back to basics
For this reason, I'm a great believer in getting back to basics in parenting and following our natural instincts; trusting ourselves; trusting our babies and trusting thousands of years of evolution - us humans are pretty fine-tuned (to put it mildly) to care for our babies and our babies are just as fine-tuned to ensure they receive the care they need from us to promote their survival and positive development as they grow. Whenever I have gone against my natural instincts with my two, I'm always reminded not to – even now at three and five!
"You are the best expert on your baby.
Your baby is your best teacher.
Trust in yourself. Trust in your baby"
A key message during my Sunflower Baby Massage classes is that we are the best experts on our babies and our babies are our best teachers. One of my favourite elements of being an IAIM Baby Massage instructor is facilitating a quiet space away from the throes of 21st Century living for parents to get back to basics and spend quality-time simply focusing on and communicating with their babies through positive nurturing touch.... and what a privilege it is to witness the endless loving gazes, the gentle interactions and instinctive attunement parents naturally have with their babies, no matter what the circumstance or how much sleep they have (or haven't) had the night before – so often I leave my classes feeling in awe and totally inspired by my Sunflower families.
All in it together
A main aim during my classes is that parents feel comfortable in sharing the highs, lows and pressures of parenting in a safe, supportive and non-judgemental space. At the end of the day, we are all in it together regardless of our background, our parenting choices, whether we have one baby or more these times, as well as being full of love and joy, are also full of transitions, learning and quite often a side order of guilt too! It's not all smiles all the time - plus, let’s face it sleep deprivation at any stage is actual torture!
A final message...
Overall, I think an important message to share is that we are not alone and although it may seem like others have it all sorted and all is social media shiny on the outside... no one truly has it all sorted, all the time – we are all on our own journeys. So with this in mind, I’ll close this blog post with a little quotation of wisdom that I recently came across...
“We have to stop comparing our insides to other people's outsides.”
Sunflower Baby Massage
Certified Infant Massage Instructor
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF INFANT MASSAGE
IAIM UK - the UK’s leading authority on infant massage - turns 20 this summer, and continues to set the bar in its field of expertise; providing parents and professionals with world-class advice, education and training, while supporting important humanitarian projects.
What makes us so special?
The International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) is the original and longest standing infant massage association in the world – with an international heritage dating back to the 1960’s – and still to this day is the only association in the world dedicated solely to infant massage.
Accredited by The Royal College of Midwives, the purpose of the International Association of Infant Massage is to promote nurturing touch and touch communication through training, education and research; powering its belief that it is every baby’s fundamental birth right to receive nurturing touch. The IAIM UK Chapter celebrated its landmark 20th anniversary in the UK on 5th July 2017.
The power of touch
Babies and children need plenty of positive attention in order to grow into healthy and happy adults and the provision of nurturing touch through physical affection, cuddles and massage is an important aspect in child development.
Touch communication creates a sense of safety and security for babies, resulting in lower stress levels and the ability to self-soothe (note: studies show that nurturing touch reduces cortisol levels - the stress hormone - promoting the development of a healthy immune system). It also enables babies and their parents/primary caregivers to bond and form early attachment relationships, during what is the most sensitive period of baby’s social and emotional development.
Setting the bar in baby massage -
More and more baby massage instructors and replica-training providers are emerging in the UK, but none that can offer the trusted heritage, international expertise and ongoing professional standards of the IAIM. The IAIM adheres to uncompromised ways of working that promote infant safety and wellbeing above all else. Many of the infant massage strokes used and taught by the IAIM are unique to the Association, and are constantly monitored and modified in accordance with health professionals’ guidelines. What’s more, all qualified IAIM instructors are given on-going professional development to ensure their techniques are always the most relevant and of the highest standards.
Another point of difference for IAIM training and instructors is its belief in the importance of asking baby for permission to be touched. This teaches respect, and helps baby to begin to establish healthy social boundaries. Learning how to look for infant cues is therefore an important factor in establishing communication through touch.
Techniques such as these [spotting cues and tuning into intuition] go much deeper than the physical massage strokes themselves, and are skills that the IAIM believes can only be learned through real-life experience. It’s for this reason that the IAIM will never teach its programmes via online courses and two-dimensional video tutorials. All training is conducted face-to-face.
Sir Richard Bowlby, attachment theory expert, and Patron of the IAIM UK Chapter
"I’m incredibly proud to be the patron of the IAIM’s UK Chapter, whose work continues to set the gold standard in matters of infant touch communication and child development. The IAIM is the world’s longest standing association, specialising purely in baby and infant touch - and with important projects in development, I’m certain the 20 year milestone is just the beginning."
The Association also runs a Humanitarian Fund which has been set up to support vital humanitarian causes in the UK and beyond; providing training programmes and support, in partnership with charities such as the British Red Cross, HIV charity Body and Soul, Refuge and the IAIM Kenyan Project.
For parents interested in taking part in an IAIM Sunflower Baby Massage course with their baby, please contact me for details. For professionals interested in training with us to become an IAIM Certified Infant Massage Instructor, please call our UK Head Office on 020 8989 9597 or visit www.iaim.org.uk
"Every baby in the world should receive nurturing touch as its
Vimala McClure, founder of IAIM and best-selling author
Sarah Egerton ~ IAIM UK
Vimala McClure ~ Founder of the IAIM
Sunflower Baby Massage
Dorset, Poole and Bournemouth
The Sunflower Families featured in this article are:
Heather and Baby Albert
Chris, Naomi and Baby Kai
Joe and Baby Roland
How to enhance bonding and increase attunement through touch with our babies born early, with illness or health problems.
Positive nurturing touch
Touch is the first sense your baby develops in the womb, and touch is how your baby primarily experiences and communicates with their world. Your positive nurturing touch has an important role for easing your baby's "transition from womb to world".
Getting to know your baby and enhance bonding through positive nurturing touch
Having a baby who is born early, who has experienced a difficult birth leading to illness, or born with health problems can be a very stressful experience for you, and your baby. Getting to know your baby through a cue-based dialogue of positive nurturing touch can help to encourage your special connection together, enhance the bonding process and can give you a greater sense of confidence as a parent.
Time spent watching and caring for your baby will help you learn about their unique ways of responding to the world. Through their cues, your baby will let you know what kind of touch they are able to receive and what works for them as individuals at that particular time. Your baby can sense and feel your touch and recognise your special voice and scent. This creates an opportunity for bonding and attachment, that lasts a lifetime.
A cue-based dialogue
In our Association positive nurturing touch (and Baby Massage when you're at home) is not considered a treatment or therapy, it is a two-way communication; a dialogue between you and your baby. The most important element to this dialogue of nurturing touch in any circumstance is that it is carried out in synchrony with your baby, at all times.
Your baby's first contact with human touch may have been a world away from the warmth, security and comfort of the womb. The dialogue you develop with your baby communicates the love and the respect that you have for your baby, as a person in their own right. This communication of love and respect will help your baby to build trust and get used to the feelings of your loving touch. Through this dialogue with your baby, you will also gain a deeper understanding of your baby's cues and therefore their needs, which will in-turn give you a greater sense of confidence as a parent.
Your five-step dialogue with your baby
Avoidance or disengagement cues
Your baby's avoidance, or disengagement cues may appear in clusters. These clusters can be very subtle at first, for example a change in breathing, hiccuping, yawning or sneezing, however every baby is an individual. You are the expert of your baby and your baby is your teacher. Your baby will let you know what their own unique engagement and disengagement cues are.
If you have a baby who is born early, has experienced illness or has health problems they may be more sensitive to their surroundings. If your baby starts to give you their avoidance or disengagement cues during your touch communication together, slow your breathing and consciously relax your hands. Take a moment to wait and watch; are there any outside disturbances that could have unsettled your baby? Has someone come into the room? Are the lights too bright? Have you moved your hands even very slightly? By taking this time to wait and watch you are continuing your cue-based dialogue. This time may also help your baby to resettle, with the reassurance and consistency of your positive nurturing touch.
When at home
If your baby is receiving therapies, such as physiotherapy, consider if this time of nurturing touch could be in a different room to minimise the association between receiving a therapy or completing exercises (which can be uncomfortable) and your dialogue of positive nurturing touch.
It is important that when working through your dialogue together that your baby is positioned nice and close to you, so that you can clearly see their face; on your lap with knees bent works well (as with IAIM and Sunflower Baby Massage logo). To encourage feelings of support and security, you can place a blanket underneath your baby and cocoon this around them, which will also help to keep them warm.
Your role, your baby's role and our roles as CIMIs
As the parent of your baby you are the expert of your baby, and your baby is your teacher. As IAIM Certified Infant Massage Instructors (CIMIs) it is our role to simply facilitate, guide and support you through this process as you learn the holds and massage strokes that are associated with yours and your baby's unique dialogue.
No matter what the circumstance, you are a fundamental part of your baby's development and growth. Your baby will quickly recognise the incredible love that flows through your hands, as you discover your wonderful dialogue together; a dialogue that will continue to grow as your baby does, encouraging a lifetime of love, trust and intimacy between you both.
A final note from Vimala McClure, Founder of the International Association of Infant Massage
"Breath deeply, relax and move through these movements with your baby. Assure your newborn that he or she is OK, that you are here for him or her no matter what happens. The baby needs to feel your strength and confidence"
Have you had a baby born early, with illness or health problems? What are your experiences? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments below.
Sources, with thanks:
Vimala McClure, Founder of the International Association of Infant Massage and Author of Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents
The International Association of Infant Massage, UK Chapter
Book for preterm parents. Caring for your Baby in the Neonatal Unit. By Inga Warren & Cherry Bond CIMI, from www.earlybabies.com
Sunflower Baby Photo
Big Thanks to Sunny Sunflower Baby, Joshua and his Mummy, Karen. What a gorgeous photo of positive nurturing touch.