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Baby Massage; Bond with your Adopted Baby

Massage is an excellent way to bond with a child of any age. Massage is especially important as a means for helping a child experience appropriate, loving, non-sexual, touch. If you are adopting an older child, work directly with a therapeutic massage therapist to learn massage techniques. We also recommend the video Heart to Heart, available at the Infant Massage USA.

Baby Massage: A Video for Loving Parents, is excellent for learning to massage the non-crawling adopted baby.

Studies have shown that the hormone prolactin, which is needed to produce breast milk, is increased when a mother massages her infant. It is often referred to as the "mothering hormone" because it also brings out a desire to nurture. When prolactin levels were done on fathers who massaged their infants it was found that their prolactin levels went up, helping them to feel more competent and nurturing. It truly helps them fall in love with their baby. Think of what it could do for adoptive parents and grandparents, too!

Adopted infants may grieve the loss of their former parent or family. Even tiny infants have known their mother for nine months prior to birth. This may show up as long bouts of sad, inconsolable crying. The massage routine will help them to feel the benefits of unconditional love, which will allow the grieving process to be done in a safe, nurturing environment.

In one small study teen fathers who were taught infant massage techniques were more likely to still be involved with the baby than were the fathers in the control group at one year.

Comments from Adoptive Parents about Baby Massage: A Video for Loving Parents:

"Our daughter had diarrhea for the first month she was home. Was it stress? Or a change in the water? We never knew. AND; I'm so glad I was doing infant massage. Can you imagine how many times we were cleaning that child's bottom? For balance, I'm glad that at least once a day, for a few minutes, we rubbed her arms and legs and back too. I like to think she got the right idea from the start, that ALL of her is important to us."

"When we adopted Robert, he was an underweight baby. I used Baby Massage: A Video for Loving Parents (especially that grease-proof card) because I wanted him to gain weight. When he didn't crawl, and then didn't walk until 22 months, we got involved with pediatric physical therapists. Now we have a diagnosis of 'low tone,' and I found out that massage was the BEST thing I could have been doing all along, and he's much better off because of it. One thing didn't work out for me; I was advised to switch to a more 'stimulating' touch. By then Robert and I had a rhythm going of massage-as-calming time. After a few tries, puzzling for both of us, I went back to thinking of massage as a calming routine.

"We had an open adoption, and met our son soon after he was born. With Elly's help, I gave him his first massage at one day of age. It was as if we had known each other forever. It was an incredible experience that really sealed our bonding. I will never forget it."
-Anonymous Adoptive Father

We love hearing from adoptive parents who have used our video. Contact us (and let us know if you are willing to have your comments posted.)

If you are still looking for your child, bookmark this page and check with adoptionadvocates.org. Ethiopian children are available now.

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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