Infant Massage Cures Baby Blues

by Summer Menkee, CEIM

Last month, on July 20th, I was asked to give my very first hospital presentation on the Research, Benefits and Tradition of Infant Massage for BreastfeedLA‘s seminar “Infant Crying: What You Need To Know,” co-sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Panorama City.  The audience was primarily Nurses (RNs) and Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs).  I learned a great deal from this experience because my typical audience for my power point presentations is usually new parents attending a free intro for my next workshop series.  For my Kaiser lecture I researched multiple studies to provide evidence supporting each benefit of Infant Massage.  Since this was my first hospital rodeo, I included the whole study…for seven different evidence based benefits.  What I learned was that bullet points are much easier to present to a large audience, rather than dense paragraphs of medical jargon.  It’s been awhile since I’ve written an academic research paper, with detailed footnotes, and that’s exactly what this was like.  For my next big presentation, I will distill all of the studies down to their simplest form and site my references at the end.

My presentation as a whole was a hit though, and tons of fun!!!  Funny thing is, I ended up sitting on a narrow table with myCobalt legs stretched out (into the air) in front of me to demonstrate the Gas & Colic Relief routine with my doll on my lap.  The room was very wide and packed full of one hundred or so attendees.  A soft spoken RN/IBCLC came up to me at the end and said, “I’m so glad you referenced the Leboyer book” (Loving Hands). Her response reinforced that his philosophies are considered “alternative” by traditional Western medicine.  Another attendee said my lecture took her back to massaging her own grownup child as a baby, and that that time was among her sweetest, fondest memories.  Several nurses asked to sign up for a private group workshop with me, followed by observation at my next Wallaby Parent & Me series, and bought mustard seed and sweet almond oils and massage kits.  I also donated two summer & sage Sacred Infant Massage Kits to upcoming BreastfeedLA events, thanks to the wonderful education outreach and guest speaker invitation from Jessica Claire.

I enjoyed gleaning new and familiar information from IBCLC Genevieve 51oo5m6mNzL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_Colvin’s presentation “Popular Infant Crying Advice.”  She referenced many books that parents follow these days, especially for sleep training.  Many moms and dads follow parent-led practices when it comes to sleep routines and parenting in general.  Cry-it-out is advocated by so many books and pediatricians, which so many parents follow blindly because they desperately want their sleep.  Who doesn’t?  We all miss our pre-baby 8 hours of uninterrupted blissful sleep!  And, most of us do have to get up in the morning to go to work, or get a fat list of things done.  What I walked away with is that there are multiple ways to soothe your baby when they are crying, in addition to infant massage.  The toughest time for parents of newborns is the witching hour- when baby seems inconsolable, usually leading up to going down at night for their longest sleep stretch.  I personally love the techniques and philosophies of Dr. Harvey Karp (Happiest Baby on the Block) and Dr. Sears (The Baby Book).  I got to sit down and chat with Genevieve a bit at lunchtime, and found that we have similar baby-led parenting philosophies.

Another exciting new development is that the Lead Therapist of the Maternal Wellness Program at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena reached out to me to teach Infant Massage classes to mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression.  In her words, “Infant massage is great for reducing stress and increasing mother and baby attachment- both major problem areas for women with perinatal mental health disorders.” I’ve included the bullet pointed studies that support the evidence for this below, which I used in my “Infant Crying” seminar presentation:

Infant massage improves mother–infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression

Journal of Affective Disorders  Volume 63, Issues 1–3, March 2001, Pages 201–207

Katsuno Onozawa, Vivette Glover, Diana Adams, Neena Modi, R.Channi Kumar

  • The aims of this study were to determine whether attending regular massage classes could reduce maternal depression and also improve the quality of mother–infant interaction.
  • 34 depressed mothers, 9 weeks postpartum, identified as being depressed at 4 weeks postpartum, were randomly allocated either to an infant massage class and support group (massage group) or to just a support group (control group). Each group attended five weekly sessions. Changes in maternal depression and mother–infant interaction were assessed at the beginning and the end of the study by comparing EPDS (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) scores and ratings of videotaped mother–infant interaction.
  • Significant improvement of mother–infant interaction was seen only in the massage group.
  • This study suggests that learning the practice of infant massage by mothers is an effective treatment for postnatal depression.

Postpartum depression effects on early interactions, parenting, and safety practices: A review

Infant Behavior and Development  Volume 33, Issue 1, February 2010, Pages 1–6

Tiffany Field

  • The mother-infant interaction disturbances of depressed mothers appears to be universal across different cultures and socioeconomic status groups.
  • Less sensitivity of the mothers and responsiveness to their infants.
  • Several care giving activities appear to be compromised: feeding practices (most especially breastfeeding), sleep routines, well-child visits, vaccinations and safety practices.
  • Universal screening is needed for maternal and paternal depression during the postpartum period.
  • Early interventions include: psychotherapy, interaction coaching, and infant massage instruction for parents.

Infant Massage supportA Schedule of my upcoming Sacred Infant Massage Parent & Me Classes, and Private Instruction for single families or small groups, as well as our Sacred Infant Massage Kits (includes: Organic, Cold-Pressed Mustard Seed/Sweet Almond Oil + Waterproof, Plush Blankets) are available for registration and purchase at our website:   www.summerandsage.net

Contact: summerandsage@gmail.com to book Summer Sinclair-Menkee, CEIM, to speak, give Infant Massage demonstrations, or exhibit at your next Prenatal/Postpartum Panel, Seminar or Baby Expo.