June 23, 2013


Baby & Child Massage for better sleep

When many people think of the ultimate in relaxation, they think massage.  It calms the body, mind and muscles, and often promotes sleep.  That is why infant massage is becoming more and more popular amongst new parents.  Massage has been used for years to help with colic or to get rid of the pesky gas, but recent studies have shown that regular massage for infants can promote better sleep in babies, and in return, their sleep deprived parents.

A recent study from the Warwick Medical School and the Institute of Education of Warwick, found that infants who received massage cried less and had a decrease in stress hormones such as cortisol, which resulted in better sleep. One Study also stated that massage could also affect the release of melatonin, aiding in infant sleep patterns.

Massaging an infant or toddler,  to help with sleep,  may be different than treating them for colic, gas, or reflux.  Massage before sleep is made part of the bed time routine. Although routines vary from family to family, according to Infant Massage USA, “children who were given daily massages for 15 minutes before going to bed, showed fewer sleep delayed behaviours and had a shorter latency to sleep onset, and as a result, were more awake, alert and active during the day.BabyMassage

To perform a massage to help promote sleep, keep baby in a warm, dimly lit room.  Many  like to use soft relaxing music.  Massage strokes should be preformed in a slow, rhythmical pattern, with full hand contact in a gentle but firm pressure. Lotion or oil can be used, or techniques can be done dry, over clothing. Keeping with a similar pattern can help relax baby and indicate bed time.

Massage therapy follows guiding principals. These help aid blood flow in the correct direction to help with circulation. Starting with the legs, then arms, head, back and tummy allows you to cover all areas, but brings the circulation back to the heart at the centre of the body, and therefore, leaves the child feeling a sense of overall relaxation. Maintaining eye contact and talking to baby in a soft, soothing voice helps build communication, trust, and bonds. It helps to become a wonderful part of the routine, really helping baby feel that this is a wonderful one on one moment with mom or dad.  When working on the limbs, again begin closest to the body, working your way out to the tips of the fingers or toes, and back up to the body.  Since their limbs are small, you can use your whole hand.  When you reach smaller parts, such as hands or feet,  you can simply use your fingers or thumbs to gently knead. When working on the tummy or back, you can use a variety of techniques with either the whole hand or just the finger tips.  When working on the face,  light pressure with finger tips is all you need.  Now, most babies will not let you get through a full body massage the first time,if ever, and that is fine.  Watching baby and following their cues is important.

Touch is a very powerful tool for a parent to use.  Infant massage can help develop that tool for both parent and baby, and also helps create wonderful memories to last a life time.

AmberParkinsonAmber is a  Registered Massage Therapist, the owner of Amber Parkinson Massage and one of Durham Regions leading prenatal massage therapists. She provides massage therapy services to the whole family, working with men, women and children of all ages, from infants to the elderly. Amber tailors each treatment to  the abilities, and needs of each individual client. She specialize in prenatal and postpartum massage. You can follow Amber on Facebook and Twitter. Amber lives in Ajax, Ontario with her husband, daughter and dog.
March 12, 2013

Making Beautiful Music Together® – Guest Post

MusicTogetherKW Lullabies_square

Part 2 of our Soothing Routines Series

When my eldest daughter was born, one of my greatest pleasures was singing to her. At the time, I didn’t have a very big repertoire, but I sang what came to mind. (In the beginning it was a lot of Christmas carols, but a few semesters of Music Together® classes took care of that!) Sometimes I sang to distract her, many times to soothe her, and often just to keep myself sane as I went about the daily routine of caring for this new being in my life. While music often carried us throughout our harried days, it was ultimately lullaby time (before naps and in the evening) which put us both into the peaceful state needed for relaxation and sleep.

What makes a lullaby so magical? It seems to be a universal impulse for adults to sing to their babies; every culture has its own lullaby tradition. Unconsciously, mothers everywhere rock their babies and coo to them, when calm is needed. This rhythmic movement, in combination with a caregiver’s voice, is a soothing balm to a crying babe. Despite many parents’ inhibitions around singing, you can be assured that your child loves your voice more than anyone else; they are the kindest of critics! One study by Nakata and Trehub (2003) compared babies’ responsiveness to their mothers’ singing and mothers’ speech. Babies six months old preferred when their mothers sang to them than when they spoke to them.

Researchers have shown that parents—whether they realize it or not—even have a special “lullaby voice,” a way of adjusting the pitch and tempo that’s similar to the adjustments of tone (so-called “motherese”) that adults use when speaking to an infant. Infants have a high preference for this “infant-directed singing.” Sandra Trehub of the University of Toronto has shown that infants can even distinguish between audiotapes of their parent directing their singing to them versus singing to an empty room.

Trehub suggests that the infant is sensitive to the emotion present in infant-directed singing, and that the lullaby is a kind of “synchronization device,” which coordinates emotion between parent and child. It lulls them both; producing a release of hormones that promote relaxation and bonding. Playing a CD of lullaby music simply does not have the same effect as singing directly to your baby. Over time, the closeness that a lullaby creates, ultimately helps children to feel secure and loved. For our family, lullaby time became over the years, the time of day for true confessions, the spilling of childhood worries, and deep questions. It was a peaceful, satisfying end to our days.

If there is just one piece of advice I could share around lullabies, it would be to simply sing to your child. The content or quality bears little weight. A few strains of your favourite song might be all that’s needed, as simplicity and repetitiveness is what gives a lullaby it’s soothing quality. Songs have a tremendous impact on children – they can brighten their mood, relax them, comfort them and help them to sleep. In turn, parents can feel competent in their nurturing skills. If you should find that there is only one song sung each day, I hope you will make it a lullaby.

Nakata, T., & Trehub, S. E. (2003.) Infants’ responsiveness to maternal speech and singing. Infant Behavior and Development, 27, 455-464.

JodieFeraJodie Fera, BMus (ed), B. Ed., is the mom of two great kids who, while in their double digits now, still occasionally request a lullaby after a particularly stressful day. She is also the director of and certified teacher at Music Together of Kitchener-Waterloo.