AN OPEN LETTER TO MY FRIENDS, FOLLOWERS, AND WELL-WISHERS

Thank you for your friendship, your kindness, and the love that comes to me over this “invisible” thing called Facebook.

You may have noticed some change from me over the last year or so. Most of my FB friends are from other countries, so I’d like to explain the evolution of my life and work.

I have had a disease called Fibromyalgia for 30 years. I had a total remission from 2014 through October of 2018. Just guessing at why it re-appeared, a few months of intense stress — physical, mental, emotional, financial — may have contributed but I’m not sure. When it re-emerged, it surprised me and I had difficulty accepting it, thinking that I’d get “back to normal” in a few days. It never went away, and I had symptoms (intense and debilitating all over pain, migraines, exhaustion) for months. I finally accepted that it’s back, and started learning how to dance with it. There are days when I have to be in bed all day; there are times when the pain is so profound I cry in spite of medications that are supposed to help.

Then there are days, sometimes weeks, when it lifts, and though I’m in pain, I can function with joy. Recently I went through a period of having my blood tested for everything you can imagine, and the fear was that I was getting Rheumatoid Arthritis. I rejected the fear, and it turned out that I’m okay.

As the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), I’m still involved, basically posting blogs and articles about infant massage and babies in general. I’ll continue doing that. What I needed to accept is that I will never teach or train again. At first feeling grief, eventually I started to feel lighter, and stepped into my “eldership” feeling relief and peace.

Thinking about how to manage this pain disease, I looked back to when I first developed it. At that time, I was pursuing art professionally, and when I was making art, the pain calmed. I decided to try returning to that, and began exploring how I could sew again (my passion). I began hand sewing, doing embroidery, in April of this year. Now I’m making embroidered “landscapes” and have sold many of them. In July I opened a shop on Etsy (in May, I imagined I might do that sometime during the summer). You can see my work on my Facebook page “Vimala’s Textile Art,” on Instagram TextileArt_by_Vimala, and Etsy.

If you would like to support my work, you can go to etsy.com and find my shop “Beaux Textiles” (French for beautiful textile art). There you’ll see all available pieces, and you can “favorite” the shop, and “favorite” any pieces that appeal to you. This will help get my shop noticed. No purchase necessary. I love doing this more than I thought I would. It’s a mindful practice, and most days I’m sewing all day long. I even have some commissioned pieces to finish. When I told my son about it, he said of course it would be successful — “Mom, you’re an artist; you always have been an artist, and whatever you make has been successful.” He was happy that I was getting back to art. I’m also learning Spanish and French — because I have so many friends and family members that speak these languages, and also for my brain!

Another change that you may have noticed is my political posts. I have always been pretty loud about things I see as threatening the poor, endangered species, racism, and cruelty. Unfortunately, in my country right now, some of our leaders are doing just that every single day, and I saw this coming years ago. I won’t be silenced. I’m not an angry person, but I cannot sit by and watch my fellow beings suffering.

As you can see if you look at my page, and my other pages — The Tao of Motherhood (mostly posts about toddlers) and The Path of Parenting (mostly posts about older kids)— I’m still making my views about parenting known. The Tao of Motherhood page has more than 10,000 likes and counting. My personal page is mostly about babies, so maybe people whose babies grow relate to that page more.

In my heart, I am very much with Infant Massage, my life’s work and my legacy. I love hearing from instructors and parents, and I love to see what the chapters of IAIM around the world are doing.

If you have any questions, please message me; I’m happy to hear from anybody.

AN OPEN LETTER TO MY FRIENDS, FOLLOWERS, AND WELL-WISHERS

Thank you for your friendship, your kindness, and the love that comes to me over this “invisible” thing called Facebook.

You may have noticed some change from me over the last year or so. Most of my FB friends are from other countries, so I’d like to explain the evolution of my life and work.

I have had a disease called Fibromyalgia for 30 years. I had a total remission from 2014 through October of 2018. Just guessing at why it re-appeared, a few months of intense stress — physical, mental, emotional, financial — may have contributed but I’m not sure. When it re-emerged, it surprised me and I had difficulty accepting it, thinking that I’d get “back to normal” in a few days. It never went away, and I had symptoms (intense and debilitating all over pain, migraines, exhaustion) for months. I finally accepted that it’s back, and started learning how to dance with it. There are days when I have to be in bed all day; there are times when the pain is so profound I cry in spite of medications that are supposed to help.

Then there are days, sometimes weeks, when it lifts, and though I’m in pain, I can function with joy. Recently I went through a period of having my blood tested for everything you can imagine, and the fear was that I was getting Rheumatoid Arthritis. I rejected the fear, and it turned out that I’m okay.

As the founder of the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), I’m still involved, basically posting blogs and articles about infant massage and babies in general. I’ll continue doing that. What I needed to accept is that I will never teach or train again. At first feeling grief, eventually I started to feel lighter, and stepped into my “eldership” feeling relief and peace.

Thinking about how to manage this pain disease, I looked back to when I first developed it. At that time, I was pursuing art professionally, and when I was making art, the pain calmed. I decided to try returning to that, and began exploring how I could sew again (my passion). I began hand sewing, doing embroidery, in April of this year. Now I’m making embroidered “landscapes” and have sold many of them. In July I opened a shop on Etsy (in May, I imagined I might do that sometime during the summer). You can see my work on my Facebook page “Vimala’s Textile Art,” on Instagram TextileArt_by_Vimala, and Etsy.

If you would like to support my work, you can go to etsy.com and find my shop “Beaux Textiles” (French for beautiful textile art). There you’ll see all available pieces, and you can “favorite” the shop, and “favorite” any pieces that appeal to you. This will help get my shop noticed. No purchase necessary. I love doing this more than I thought I would. It’s a mindful practice, and most days I’m sewing all day long. I even have some commissioned pieces to finish. When I told my son about it, he said of course it would be successful — “Mom, you’re an artist; you always have been an artist, and whatever you make has been successful.” He was happy that I was getting back to art. I’m also learning Spanish and French — because I have so many friends and family members that speak these languages, and also for my brain!

Another change that you may have noticed is my political posts. I have always been pretty loud about things I see as threatening the poor, endangered species, racism, and cruelty. Unfortunately, in my country right now, some of our leaders are doing just that every single day, and I saw this coming years ago. I won’t be silenced. I’m not an angry person, but I cannot sit by and watch my fellow beings suffering.

As you can see if you look at my page, and my other pages — The Tao of Motherhood (mostly posts about toddlers) and The Path of Parenting (mostly posts about older kids)— I’m still making my views about parenting known. The Tao of Motherhood page has more than 10,000 likes and counting. My personal page is mostly about babies, so maybe people whose babies grow relate to that page more.

In my heart, I am very much with Infant Massage, my life’s work and my legacy. I love hearing from instructors and parents, and I love to see what the chapters of IAIM around the world are doing.

If you have any questions, please message me; I’m happy to hear from anybody.

Infant Massage, Bonding, Baby-Wearing and Attachment – Part One

THE LOVING ART OF INFANT MASSAGE

I learned about the ancient art of infant massage while I was studying and working in an orphanage in Northern India in 1973. I made a connection in my mind observing the children there. Their play was happy and inclusive. They had rhythmic songs and dances they would do together, whether anyone was watching or not. They looked me straight in the eye, no shyness or fear at all. I remembered observing children playing in U.S. playgrounds; their games were often “war” games, they gathered in little bunches, bullied the “nerds” or “weird” kids. They fought for time on the “monkey bars.” 

I began to think that perhaps Indian children were so kind, inclusive, responsible for the younger ones and “others,” happy in their play, because they had been massaged regularly as babies. Massage is a normal thing in Indian families, especially in the villages and towns where “modern” ideas have not yet influenced them. Women usually live with their husband’s family; when pregnant, their mothers-in-law massage them every day. After giving birth, they learn to massage their babies as part of their everyday life.

I returned to the U.S., and spent a couple of years researching the power of touch. I found a boat-load of studies on mammals — how they bond with their young, the licking, grooming, and massage that make up the bonding process. Though there weren’t, at that time, studies on humans, it seemed natural to me that we would be like other mammals in that regard. 

I continued researching throughout my first pregnancy. Ashley Montague’s groundbreaking book, Touching, provided ample studies on the importance of “pleasant touch” in various mammal species. I studied the work of Harry Harlow, Konrad Lorenz, and Kennell and Klaus — who had just come out with their findings on maternal-infant bonding — and may other proving the importance of touch, scent, and prolonged gazing to the healthy development of newborns.

When my baby was born in 1976, I massaged him every day using the strokes I learned in India, combining them with what I already knew — Swedish massage, reflexology, and yoga postures I adapted for babies. Because my baby suffered from colic — a lot of crying, tensing, pulling his knees up, I devised a “Colic Relief Routine” that ended his colic in two weeks. At one point I stopped massaging him for almost two weeks; the change was noticeable. He was less cuddly, happy, eager to bond. I began massaging him again and didn’t stop!

KNEES UP2_m

To make a long story short, I started teaching other parents, then certifying people to teach the class I had developed, and eventually certifying instructors to certify other instructors to be Trainers. I wrote Infant Massage, a Handbook for Loving Parents (Bantam/Random House) and founded the nonprofit International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM). Since then I have been able to revise and update my book several times; it has been translated into 14 languages. IAIM has grown to over 50 chapters around the world and a 50-member Circle of Trainers.

In my book (the first and most comprehensive book on infant massage), there are chapters on the physiological benefits, the elements of bonding and attachment that are naturally included in massage, and clear photographic instructions. There are chapters dedicated to music, fathers, crying and fussing, colic, preemies, special needs, your growing child, sibling bonding, adopted and foster babies, and teen parents. The massage routine I developed is more than just touching your baby. Each part of the massage, each stroke and the order of strokes — all are important, each has a reason.

I urge you to 1) massage your pregnant belly and talk/sing to your baby, 2) have your partner massage you as well, 3) learn infant massage so that you can begin as soon as possible after your baby is born. You will love it! And so will your baby.

— Vimala McClure

International Association of Infant Massage — IAIM:

http://www.iaim.net

Find an Infant Massage Instructor in the U.S.:

http://www.infantmassageusa.org

Purchase INFANT MASSAGE, A HANDBOOK FOR LOVING PARENTS:

http://www.amazon.com/Infant-Massage–Revised-Edition-Handbook-Parents/dp/0553380567/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414181782&sr=8-1&keywords=infant+massage

Infant Massage, Bonding, Baby-Wearing and Attachment – Part Four

I Massaged and Carried My Baby, and Continued My Research

I began massaging my baby shortly after he was born. I started with the traditional massage I had learned in India, and due to my research and my observations, I gradually added and subtracted elements that were backed up by professional research and because of my yoga teaching, my knowledge of the lymph system and the importance of including massage and movements to stimulate it. Lymph carries toxins through its own system and helps push the toxins out through the gastrointestinal system. It has no innate way to circulate on its own — movement of some kind helps circulate the lymph. The circulation of lymph is one of the foundations of yoga postures.

Baby exercise

STRETCH UPm After my first baby was born, I continued studying bonding and its elements, strapping him to my chest (in a new product, invented by an acquaintance of mind, called a “Snugli”) and heading off to the medical library several times a week. By that time I massaged my baby daily and, as much as possible, carried him in a front pack on my chest.

BABY WEARING

A Massage Routine that Could be Taught

After massaging my baby every day for three months and continuing my research, I developed a massage routine that could be taught. My baby was “colicky” and so I used massage and yoga postures to help mature his gastrointestinal system. The routine I developed was always successful in reducing, then eliminating, the cries of colic. The massage helped move fecal matter and gas through the intestines and down through the colon, easily eliminated by the baby’s natural system. Using the strokes and movements I developed, a baby’s colic is relieved within two weeks. I included my Colic Relief Routine in the curriculum I was developing.

 KNEES UP1_m

Massage Speeds Myelination of the Brain and Nervous System

The natural sensory stimulation of massage speeds myelination of the brain and the nervous system. The myelin sheath is a fatty covering around each nerve, like insulation around electrical wire. It protects the nervous system and speeds the transmission of impulses from the brain to the rest of the body. The process of coating the nerves is not complete at birth, but skin stimulation speeds the process, thus enhancing rapid neural-cell firing and improving brain-body communication.

Research Finds Infants Sensitive to “Pleasant Touch”

There are two studies whose results are that “pleasant touch” is good for babies. They say that a gentle touch or caress, deemed “pleasant touch,” stimulates a baby’s senses and induces a response indicative of parent-infant bonding. New research into the matter now finds that these interactions are not only important for bonding, but that they also build on the child’s social and physiological development.

One article says, “Our results provide physiological and behavioral evidence that sensitivity to pleasant touch emerges early in development and therefore plays an important role in regulating human social interactions.” The findings are important because they show that the implicit meaning of pleasant touch — to stimulate bonding — develops as early as infancy. In turn, these social interactions carry on into adulthood, as many adults lightly caress, or pet, their partner to express love and affection.

An article in Scientific American reported that children lacking this kind of interaction (“pleasant touch”) — often those who end up in foster care or orphanages — tend to have increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol as they grow older.  High levels of cortisol are present in depression and anxiety disorders. “This lack of affection,” say the researchers, “can result in a child who develops emotional, behavioral, and social problems later in life.”

Cognitive neuroscientist Merle Fairhurst and colleagues of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, knew that previous studies with adults show that a specific type of touch receptor is activated in response to a particular stroking velocity, leading to the sensation of “pleasant” touch. They hypothesized that this type of response emerges as early as infancy.

Strokes of Medium Velocity Work Best

Babies show unique physiological and behavioral responses to pleasant touch, which helps to cement the bonds between parent and child. For this study, Fairhurst and colleagues had infants sit in their parents’ laps while the experimenter stroked the back of the infant’s arm with a paintbrush. The results showed that the babies’ heart rate slowed in response to the brushstrokes when the strokes were of medium velocity; in other words, the touch of the medium-velocity brush helped to decrease their physiological arousal. The infants’ slower heart rate during medium-velocity brushstrokes was uniquely correlated with the primary caregivers’ own self-reported sensitivity to touch. The more sensitive the caregiver was to touch, the more the infant’s heart rate slowed in response to medium-velocity touch.

CHEST3_m

The most engaging response came with the medium-velocity strokes, which not only lowered the babies’ heart rate, but also caused them to become more curious about the brush as it stroked them. Further strengthening the relationship between pleasant touch and parent-child bonding, the researchers found that parents whose self-reported sensitivity to touch was higher were more likely to have children who responded more to the pleasant touch of the paintbrush.

Pleasant Touch Plays a Vital Role in Human Social Interactions

The researchers noted that this link between caregiver and infant could be supported by both “nurture” and “nature” explanations. “Social touch is genetically heritable and therefore correlated between caregiver and infants,” Fairhurst said. According to the researchers, the findings “support the notion that pleasant touch plays a vital role in human social interactions by demonstrating that the sensitivity to pleasant touch emerges early in human development.”

With Massage, Babies Experience Bonding in their DNA

This study indicates that a baby who is massaged regularly, receiving “pleasant” touch, will experience bonding in the infant’s very DNA, and is therefore more likely to naturally bond with his/her own children later in life. It also reminds us to teach the strokes in a way that is “medium velocity”; that is, not too light, not too heavy. In my experience, most parents err on the side of too light a stroke, and often need to be encouraged to be a little more firm in their massage. When they know that their baby responds better to a firmer stroke, they gain confidence. I often asked them to think of a cat licking her kittens; the “stroke” is just right; the kittens rely on the mother’s strength to feel grounded and cared-for.

Research Suggests that Touch is as Important to Infants and Children as Eating and Sleeping

Dr. Tiffany Field has said, “Our research suggests that touch is as important to infants and children as eating and sleeping.” She notes that loving touch triggers physiological changes that help infants grow and develop, stimulating nerves in the brain that facilitate food absorption and lowing stress hormone levels, resulting in improved immune system functioning. A report by the Families and Work Institutes states that during the first three years of life, the vast majority of connections between brain cells are formed They conclude that loving interaction such as massage can directly affect a child’s emotional development and ability to handle stress as an adult.

BABY FATHER_n

Premature Babies Benefit Tremendously from Massage

Studies with premature babies using the massage and holding methods in my book have demonstrated that daily massage is of tremendous benefit. In 1984, an instructor from my organization did an in-service talk at the University of Miami Medical Center. Dr. Tiffany Field became very interested in the effects of touch and massage on premature infants. She founded the Touch Research Institute after a groundbreaking study on premature babies and massage. Her research has shown remarkable results and eventually earned her the “Golden Goose Award,” which honors scientists whose federally funded research may not have seemed to have significant practical applications at the time it was conducted but has resulted in major benefits to society.

MOM DAD NEWBORN 2

The key discovery — that touch, in the form of infant massage, can vastly improve the outcome for babies born prematurely — has affected millions of lives around the world and saved billions of dollars in healthcare costs in the United States alone. In one study, twenty premature babies were massaged three times daily for fifteen minutes each. They averaged forty-seven percent greater weight gain per day, were more active and alert, and showed more mature neurological development than infants who did not receive massage. In addition, their hospital stay averaged six days less — a long time for parents, and thousands of dollars of care.

I included a chapter on premature babies in the manuscript for my book. Because of the support of a noted pediatrician, I was able to work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of a prominent Denver hospital. I did not touch or massage the babies myself, feeling it is important for parents to bond with their newborns, even in the NICU, with their babies often attached to cords, tubes, etc. I taught parents one-to-one how to use Touch Relaxation and Resting Hands, methods I developed to begin a skin-to-skin bond preceding massage. The experience I had with these parents and babies was amazing. Regardless of their age or the amount of care they needed, every baby responded remarkably well to parents’ touch.

© 2014 Vimala McClure

Infant Massage, Bonding, Baby-Wearing and Attachment – Part Four

I Massaged and Carried My Baby, and Continued My Research

I began massaging my baby shortly after he was born. I started with the traditional massage I had learned in India, and due to my research and my observations, I gradually added and subtracted elements that were backed up by professional research and because of my yoga teaching, my knowledge of the lymph system and the importance of including massage and movements to stimulate it. Lymph carries toxins through its own system and helps push the toxins out through the gastrointestinal system. It has no innate way to circulate on its own — movement of some kind helps circulate the lymph. The circulation of lymph is one of the foundations of yoga postures.

 CHEST3_m

After my first baby was born, I continued studying bonding and its elements, strapping him to my chest (in a new product, invented by an acquaintance of mind, called a “Snugli”) and heading off to the medical library several times a week. By that time I massaged my baby daily and, as much as possible, carried him in a front pack on my chest.

A Massage Routine that Could Be Taught

After massaging my baby every day for three months and continuing my research, I developed a massage routine that could be taught. My baby was “colicky” and so I used massage and yoga postures to help mature his gastrointestinal system. The routine I developed was always successful in reducing, then eliminating, the cries of colic. The massage helped move fecal matter and gas through the intestines and down through the colon, easily eliminated by the baby’s natural system. Using the strokes and movements I developed, a baby’s colic is relieved within two weeks. My Colic Relief Routine was included in the curriculum I was developing.

KNEES UP1_m

Massage Speeds Myelination of the Brain and Nervous System

The natural sensory stimulation of massage speeds myelination of the brain and the nervous system. The myelin sheath is a fatty covering around each nerve, like insulation around electrical wire. It protects the nervous system and speeds the transmission of impulses from the brain to the rest of the body. The process of coating the nerves is not complete at birth, but skin stimulation speeds the process, thus enhancing rapid neural-cell firing and improving brain-body communication.

Research Finds (again) Infants Sensitive to “Pleasant Touch”

Cognitive neuroscientist Merle Fairhurst and colleagues of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, knew that previous studies with adults show that a specific type of touch receptor is activated in response to a particular stroking velocity, leading to the sensation of “pleasant” touch. They hypothesized that this type of response might emerge as early as infancy.

Strokes of Medium Velocity Work Best

Babies show unique physiological and behavioral responses to pleasant touch, which helps to cement the bonds between parent and child. For this study, Fairhurst and colleagues had infants sit in their parents’ laps while the experimenter stroked the back of the infant’s arm with a paintbrush. The results showed that the babies’ heart rate slowed in response to the brushstrokes when the strokes were of medium velocity; in other words, the touch of the medium-velocity brush helped to decrease their physiological arousal. The infants’ slower heart rate during medium-velocity brushstrokes was uniquely correlated with the primary caregivers’ own self-reported sensitivity to touch. The more sensitive the caregiver was to touch, the more the infant’s heart rate slowed in response to medium-velocity touch.

Pleasant Touch Plays a Vital Role in Human Social Interactions

The researchers noted that this link between caregiver and infant could be supported by both “nurture” and “nature” explanations. “Social touch is genetically heritable and therefore correlated between caregivers and infants,” Fairhurst said. According to the researchers, the findings support the notion that pleasant touch plays a vital roles in human social interactions by demonstrating that the sensitivity to pleasant touch emerges early in human development.” 

STRETCH UP 1_m

With Massage, Babies Experience Bonding in Their DNA

This study indicates that a baby who is massaged regularly, receiving “pleasant” touch, will experience bonding in the infant’s very DNA, and is therefore more likely to naturally bond with his/her own children later in life. It also reminds us to teach the strokes in a way that is “medium velocity”; that is, not too light, not too heavy. In my experience, most parents err on the side of too light a stroke, and often need to be encouraged to be a little more firm in their massage. When they know that their baby responds better to a firmer stroke, they gain confidence. I often asked them to think of a cat licking her kittens; the “stroke” is just right; the kittens rely on the mother’s strength to feel grounded and cared-for.

Research Suggests that Touch is as Important to Infants and Children as Eating and Sleeping

Dr. Tiffany Field of the Touch Research Institute in Miami has said, “Our research suggests that touch is as important to infants and children as eating and sleeping.” She notes that loving touch triggers physiological changes that help infants grow and develop, stimulating nerves in the brain that facilitate food absorption and lowing stress hormone levels, resulting in improved immune system functioning. A report by the Families and Work Institutes states that during the first three years of life, the vast majority of connections between brain cells are formed They conclude that loving interaction such as massage can directly affect a child’s emotional development and ability to handle stress as an adult.

QUOTE 7 TOUCH OPPORTUNITY_n

Premature Babies Benefit Tremendously from Massage 

Studies with premature babies using the massage and holding methods in my book have demonstrated that daily massage is of tremendous benefit. In 1984, an instructor from my organization did an in-service talk at the University of Miami Medical Center. Dr. Tiffany Field became very interested in the effects of touch and massage on premature infants. She founded the Touch Research Institute after a groundbreaking study on premature babies and massage. Her research has shown remarkable results and eventually earned her the “Golden Goose Award,” which honors scientists whose federally funded research may not have seemed to have significant practical applications at the time it was conducted but has resulted in major benefits to society.

EINSTEIN MIRACLE_n

The key discovery — that touch, in the form of infant massage, can vastly improve the outcome for babies born prematurely — has affected millions of lives around the world and saved billions of dollars in healthcare costs in the United States alone. In one study, twenty premature babies were massaged three times daily for fifteen minutes each. They averaged forty-seven percent greater weight gain per day, were more active and alert, and showed more mature neurological development than infants who did not receive massage. In addition, their hospital stay averaged six days less — a long time for parents, and thousands of dollars of care.

I included a chapter on premature babies in the manuscript for my book. Because of the support of a noted pediatrician, I was able to work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of a prominent Denver hospital. I did not touch or massage the babies myself, feeling it is important for parents to bond with their newborns, even in the NICU, with their babies often attached to cords, tubes, etc. I taught parents one-to-one how to use Touch Relaxation and Resting Hands, methods I developed to begin a skin-to-skin bond preceding massage.

The experience I had with these parents and babies was amazing. Regardless of their age or the amount of care they needed, every baby responded remarkably well to parents’ touch.

© 2014 Vimala McClure

Infant Massage Grows Steadily Among Parents and Professionals

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.

Dear Vimala,

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.

Sincerely,

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.

My Family Grows, My Book is Published

I continued to teach infant massage. My classes grew steadily until I was teaching two 5-session courses with 15 – 18 parents and babies in each class. I discovered I was pregnant again the spring of 1978. I had so many pages of notes and handouts for my classes, I decided to put them together into a kind of book which I could self-publish and give or sell to the parents in my classes. I rented a typewriter; with a pregnancy and a 18-month-old, writing a book was a challenge! I had two weeks to do it — we were financially challenged (we called it poor in those days) and I couldn’t afford the typewriter for any more time. When I finished, I held onto it for months while I continued to teach until I was well along in my second pregnancy.

When I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, The U.S. Lamaze childbirth educator conference invited me to speak; they were having the conference in the mountains nearby. We packed up our old car and our 2-year-old, and I gave two seminars on infant massage, which were standing-room-only. At the last talk I gave, a man came to me as I was packing up to leave. He asked me if I had thought about writing a book. I happened to have the manuscript for a book in my briefcase, and pulled it out. He said he was an assistant publisher at Bantam/Random House, and they had been looking for such a manuscript. I wanted to jump for joy, but my hugely pregnant belly stopped me! When I got home, a contract was waiting for me.

An editor from Bantam was sent out to help me with the photographs for instruction when my second baby was 6 months old; I had a 3-year-old and my baby with me. It was an intense, but fun, 3 days in the photographer’s studio. The babies were amazingly happy and enjoying the party. We had to take advantage of the time when one of the babies started fussing, because we needed a picture for that chapter. After sending the manuscript and photographs off to my publisher, I continued to teach and settled down to wait the book’s arrival (with my advance!). I was thoroughly satisfied with the book, and my publisher sent me on a book tour all over the United States. I went to every major city, with newspaper, radio, and television interviews in each place. In New York, I was on the Today show, the Regis Philbin show, and had several other interviews. In Chicago I went on the Phil Donohue show, and Oprah Winfrey when she was only a Chicago show. In each city, the television shows rounded up two or three moms and their babies so I could demonstrate the massage strokes. It was a challenge! I sent messages beforehand that I needed at least 15 minutes alone with the babies before we went on the show. From my experience, I knew it was important that I “talked” with the babies, familiarizing them with my presence, my face, my touch. Fortunately, every baby that I demonstrated on was happy, interested, and connected with me eye-to-eye, skin-to-skin.  The studios were cold, the babies undressed, so the interviewers were always surprised at how well it went.