Saturday, March 19, 2011

Helping Hands: Day 11 of 40 Days

In the fall during our roadtrip through these parts, I took a weekend long training in Infant Massage in Ashland, OR. The training was through Infant Massage, USA, and was taught by the wonderful Joann Lewis at her Family Massage Education Center. I had an amazing time learning with this small group of wonderful women.

The training prepared us to teach parents and caregivers how to massage their infants. With a little understanding and insight into the benefits of infant massage, it is easy to see how powerful and valuable of a tool it is for parents to learn. The benefits are wide-ranging, and can be narrowed down to 4 general categories: Interaction, stimulation, relief, and relaxation. These are benefits not only for the babies, but for the parents themselves, and as a result of both of these, for society as a whole. It is another example of the ripple effect I talked about here.

During the class, I quickly found myself feeling passionate about sharing this skill, more than I had previously thought I would. And it is because of the benefits, benefits that studies have and continue to prove, regarding the value of nurturing touch. It is amazing what it can lead to!

Enhanced bonding, development of verbal and non-verbal communication, enhanced development of all of the body's systems and senses, enhanced learning and language development, positive sensory integration, positive emotional development and healthy secure attachments, heightened mind and body awareness, relief of gas/colic/constipation/excess mucus, improved immune system, relief of muscular tension and tonal issues, improved sleep/flexibility/regulation, reduction of stress and stress hormones, decrease in hyper-activity, improved self-confidence for parents, early involvement for dads, decreased post-partum depression, involvement of the whole family, reduction of abuse and violence in the home, increased respect/love/empathy/positive touch, and general well-being! These are good things to ripple outward, yes?

I also have first hand experience in seeing the value of daily infant massage. When I was in Portland, one of the little girls I watched had some special needs. Charlotte was receiving Physical and Occupational Therapy to help with some of her tonal and developmental set-backs. Part of my role was to do the therapy homework with her every day, including a full-body massage. As the days and weeks unfolded, I watched as this little girl unfolded and relaxed and found herself in her body enough to begin to do all of the things the doctors originally said she wouldn't be able to do. And she continues to excel and move forward at faster and faster rates, happily determined to fully experience her world. She is my inspiration. I so wish that all children who have developmental delays were able to receive this daily massage and additional therapy, for they too may be able to reach their individual, full potential if given the chance.

Before taking this class, I ultimately wanted to learn and become certified to be the one to massage the infants. But, now, I no longer do. I find it to be important for the parents and caregivers to be the ones to do this. They are the experts of their own babies. I am here to give them the tool of massage to use with their own expertise. The use of this tool is empowering for parents and enhances their parenting and their relationships with their children. It gives them a tool that they can use as preventative health care and the first line of defense when their babies start to get sick. THEY can take the first steps towards wellness rather than immediately paying and relying on others to do so.

Now that I am finally grounded in one place for awhile, I am ready to finish my certification process. In order to get my certification, among other bookish things, I need to teach a FREE 5 week class series to 5 families. I am very excited for this and very happy to have the space and time already lined up for this class. I have made a great connection with the "village midwife" of Mt. Shasta. She has generously offered for me to use her space for this class in exchange for my assistance in helping her learn some of the midwifery skills she needs to get HER midwifery certification. It is a win-win exchange that I am so happy to do. The class will be held on Wednesday evenings from 6-7pm, April 6th - May 4th. Fliers for the class are posted, and hopefully soon, my phone will be ringing with registrants on the other end.

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