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As a Registered Nurse who has worked with growing preemies for over 20 years I can assure you that doing massage with your infant will be very healing for all of you. Infant Massage is a profound communication of love. It will recreate the closeness that you may have missed while your infant was hospitalized. Premature infants often associate touch with pain. Gentle, loving touch can help them feel that the world is safe after all.

The massage demonstrated in the video is geared toward infants who are at least a month old and have no physical problems, however there are many ideas you can use on your own infant now, even if they are still in the hospital. Please consult with your care provider or developmental specialist for advice on what would be appropriate.

If your baby is still tiny and fragile, do containment holds while imagining your hearts being connected. This visualization is demonstrated at the start of the instructional portion of the video. As your infant grows and becomes more accustomed to your touch, add some firm stroking of the legs to get them used to more stimulation. Gradually, you will be able to do more.

Studies conducted at the University of Miami Medical School have shown that premature infants who received daily massages gained 47% more weight than other infants. They also found that babies tolerate firm strokes far better than a lighter touch, and preferred oil rather than dry massage. Just think about what would feel good to you in this situation and apply it to them. Observing your infant's cues for over-stimulation and aversion will let you know how much you can do at a time.

Doing daily massages after discharge will become a routine that is enjoyable for both of you. Choose a time when your infant is the most sociable. Have the room warm and quiet. They may prefer their arms to be swaddled or to be placed in a pillow for security. Tell them that this is their special time and you will respect their wishes if they want to stop. Their body language will show how much you can do.

Let the baby get used to one part at a time. This will allow you to eventually do those spots that they are most protective of [often their chests, arms and faces]. Going only to the point of resistance will give them control, which they had little of in the NICU. They may have an emotional release, and cry when you stimulate areas that hold painful memories for them. This is perfectly OK. Crying is their way of "talking about it". Staying calm and relaxed yourself is important. Let them know that you understand what they are saying to you. Your job now is to help them feel safe and loved. Eventually, they will enjoy the entire routine.

For special problems contact The International Association of Infant Massage or Infant Massage USA There may be an instructor near you. The book "Infant Massage, A Handbook for Loving Parents" by Vimala McClure has a chapter on massage with premature infants.

I hope that the video is of help to you and your family. Elly Leduc, RN, CIMI, CHTP (email Elly).

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