In the years since my early classes, interest in infant massage has grown steadily among parents and professionals alike. I began training instructors, then trained experienced, dedicated instructors to train instructors. We now have an international nonprofit organization, the first and largest of its kind, for the preservation and dissemination of this ancient practice; we have a 50 member Circle of Trainers around the world. The International Association of Infant Massage has truly become international, with chapters in over 67 countries. My book has now been translated into fourteen languages, the latest foreign rights purchased by a large publishing company in China.
Many hospitals now train nursery staff to use massage and holding techniques that I teach with premature and sick babies and offer instruction to parents in an effort to promote bonding and ease babies’ discomforts. In addition, the benefits of this simple tradition, intuitively developed and refined in the “laboratories” of thousands of years of human experience, are being recognized day by day in modern scientific research (in India, I have met with many a joke in this regard, teased gently as a Westerner who needs double-blind studies to prove that grass grows if you water it!).
My children are grown now, and the impact of our experience with massage during their infancies has not diminished. The daily massages provided a foundation for physical, emotional, and spiritual harmony and closeness that we all carry with us for life.
I want to share a letter I received from a mother who learned infant massage from my book when I first began teaching (since then I’ve been able to revise and update the book). It is not meant as medical advice, certainly if your baby has medical problems, you should work with your medical professionals and be sure the massage you deliver is appropriate for your baby’s needs. I share it to show you how profoundly this simple practice can affect a family. I thank the mother who sent me this priceless letter.
I wanted to personally write and thank you for the invaluable contributions you made to my children.
My son was born addicted to a drug that I had been given to stop seizures from toxemia and premature labor. Additionally, I was treated several times with other intravenous drugs. Thought the pregnancy, repeated physicians scolded me and my husband for continuing the pregnancy. We were assured that our baby would be handicapped, a “vegetable,” and so on. We fought hard and well as he survived to thirty-eight weeks gestation, born at a robust eight pounds, fifteen ounces. It was soon obvious that his nervous system was badly affected by the drugs and stress.
He cried endlessly or slept nonstop, missing feedings. If he was startled, his little arms and legs would jut out and shake uncontrollably. The doctors suggested more drugs to calm him. They again asserted that his nervous system (and probably brain) were irreparable harmed. A wonderful neighbor and breastfeeding professional came to our rescue. She taught me your methods of infant massage to calm him and showed me how to swaddle him to prevent jarring his sensitive nervous system. To make a long story a tad bit shorter, he grew to be an inquisitive and absolutely delightful toddler. The shaking subsided, and a brilliant intellect came forth combined with an energy that was tiring to us poor adults. Today my supposedly “handicapped” child is in college, a National Merit Scholar, a recognized leader, a wonderful volunteer worker, and engaged to be married to a dynamic and equally bright young woman. He was nationally recognized as a teen and was offered more than $375,000 in scholarships. He works with severely handicapped adults and plans to become a physician.
My second son was also the product of a terribly high-risk pregnant. Drug therapies were a bit more advanced and, with the help of diet, controlled the toxemia. He was born with noted neurological deficits. By the age of five months, we were cautioned that he had begun to show the symptoms of autism. He was highly irritable and, to put it simply, a challenging baby.
I once again drew on my experience with massage. The tension in his little limbs would melt away, and he remained in contact with the world. I kept him close tome, leaving him only with caregivers for short periods of time who were willing to comfort him as he needed, to hold him and massage him. Though still plagued with a few problems, he is a very bright and caring sixteen-year-old. He is already doing computer design for toy and software companies.
Without the help of my neighbor who had studied your techniques, I do not believe that either of these young men would be where they are today. I believe that their intellectual, physical, and emotional development is attributable to the comfort they received as infants. How can I ever thank you? Please know that this mother will be in your debt forever.
A grateful mother
Infant massage can promote the kind of parenting that this attentive mother was able to provide. Its benefits go far beyond the immediate physiological gains. As parents massage their babies regularly, they discover that they develop a bond with their child that will last a lifetime.