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Infant massage is a style of massage which is designed for use on infants. As such, it is extremely gentle and very free-flowing, to accommodate infants who may feel restless or nervous. Both parents and professional massage therapists can offer infant massage; some parents like to take classes to learn some massage strokes and techniques to use on their infants. Such classes are often readily available from natural childbirth organizations, massage schools, and organizations which offer parenting classes.
There are a number of benefits to infant massage. One of the most important is that it fosters a strong bond between infant and parent, creating an infant who may feel more happy and secure. Touch is very important for infants and young children, and a focused, gentle, loving touch can be quite beneficial for physical and emotional health. As the largest organ in the body, the skin provides a lot of points for stimulation, and infant massage can be used to calm infants while also establishing communication. Massage can also soothe some of the gas and other mild aches and pains experienced by many infants.
The pressure used in infant massage is extremely light. The best way to gauge pressure is to test it on yourself; close your eyes, and gently rub your eyelids. At the point where you start to experience discomfort and pressure, you are using pressure which is too firm for infant massage. A variety of strokes can be used in infant massage as well, including gentle, flowing strokes, circular motions, and gentle pressure on certain points.
The best time to do infant massage varies, depending on the infant. Parents should pick a time when the baby will be feeling most relaxed, and when the parent can focus on massage for half an hour or so. The baby should be laid out nude on a soft surface, and covered with a lightweight sheet. Massage generally works from the head to the toes and back again, but parents shouldn't stick to a particular routine or system, especially if the baby seems restless or wants to change position. During an infant massage session, many infants become extremely calm and very engaged, and parents who are attuned to their children may notice that the infant prefers work in certain areas over others.
You don't have to use massage oil or cream in infant massage, although many people do. The advantage to oil is that it will moisturize the baby's body while also reducing friction, making the massage more gentle. If oil or cream is used, warm a drop between your hands by rubbing them briskly together before applying them to the infant's body, as cold oil will feel unpleasant.