Mindfulness with Loving Touch

I love teaching Infant Massage. It’s such a wonderful way to introduce new parents to the concept of mindfulness, being fully present with your baby and learning their uniqueness. Many parents don’t realize until they are learning the strokes, that their infants (some as young as 4-6 weeks) have been communicating their personalities and preferences from the moment of birth!   We teach parents to ask for permission before they start the massage by rubbing their hands together to warm up the oil, show the baby their hands and say “May I massage your legs and feet?” Some parents chuckle, thinking this is a little silly, that a baby can’t possibly understand, but after massaging their babies for only a few days, they start to observe their baby’s cues…do they look them in the eyes with interest? Give them a smile? Maybe show excitement by kicking their feet? Or do they turn away, yawn, or even pout or cry? This early respectful interchange is wiring our baby’s brain for the capacity for trust; that they will be responded to with compassionate understanding of their needs. When they’re not in the mood, too sleepy, hungry or upset, it’s the parents cue to try the massage at a different time.

I remember one father I taught was using his baby’s car seat for everything; he even found an ingenious way to prop the bottle so the baby could eat while he was doing other things or on his computer. He was very proud of this engineering feat, and was happy to show the class how he managed! How thrilling to see this father’s transformation after attending four classes; he was holding his baby more, understanding his cues, and after observing the moms in the class breastfeeding and gazing into their baby’s eyes, he learned to mimic their behaviors and look at his baby while he gave him a bottle.

Another exciting benefit of attending Infant Massage classes is the discussion of the importance of touch to our babies and to their parents. Parents often worry that they may not have time to massage their babies every day, so how to get more touch time with them? The answer of course would always turns to babywearing and how having our babies close even while doing mundane tasks like folding laundry or sitting at the computer gives them needed touch time and stimulation. And it’s a way to include them in our day, talking and singing to them, things that you do while you’re giving them a massage. Of course having our babies in such close proximity, meets an important need for secure attachment, the core principle of attachment parenting. Giving our babies the gift of our presence begins to take on a double meaning. Presence and mindfulness go hand in hand, which takes us back to the essence of touch, whether it is through massage or babywearing. There are many benefits from massage, from connection to sleep.  These early months go by so quickly, giving us a chance to slow down, savor those moments of connection, and in being present for our babies, we’re also giving equally to ourselves.

Barbara Nicholson

Barbara Nicholson holds a master’s degree in Education, specializing in learning disabilities. She has volunteered for over 20 years with La Leche League International, an educational and support organization for breastfeeding mothers. She is also trained as a facilitator in the Nurturing Parenting Program. Ms. Nicholson co-founded Attachment Parenting International in 1994.

She has spoken to a variety of groups — including parent educators, psychology students, conference attendees, and juvenile probation officers — about parenting as a prevention model for societal violence. Ms. Nicholson continues to work closely with API on fundraising and has served on the development committee for the Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker (MIHOW) Program at Vanderbilt University. Barbara is the mother of four adult sons and resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

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