Empathy. The ‘being with’ someone else and understanding what it is to be like them; putting ourselves in their shoes. Listening with the heart. Empathy is the means by which our humanity is born.

A newborn is full of sensations both from outside the body and inside. They register the sensation of how they are picked up and handled. On the inside, they are plagued with hunger pains, colic, spasms. They have no frame of reference for dealing with these sensations, except to cry. They cannot say what is wrong. Crying is very disorganizing and energy consuming for the infant, and of course, very annoying for the care-giver. Empathy is needed here. The parents need to imagine what it must be like to be the infant, to think and reflect on the baby’s situation.

To imagine all of a sudden, being wrenched from the comfort of their home and transported to, say, Mars. They don’t understand what is happening, no one tells them anything. They don’t recognize the landscape, the natives are foreign and menacing, they don’t speak the language, all sights, sounds, shapes downright terrifying, and there is nothing to eat. And the status of their underwear is nothing short of life threatening. They start to cry. No one comes. They are seized with dread and fear. No one comes. They cry louder. Nothing happens. Bummer!

Babies have individual ways of communicating their needs, likes and dislikes. They are all about establishing a secure relationship with mother and will signal when they are tired, hungry, or over stimulated and in need of holding. We have to closely observe, take notice, so that we gradually get to know if they like to be swaddled, how they like to be held whilst feeding, how to be quiet and still with them when they are stressed. They become adept at finding and holding the gaze of their carer, so as to communicate and feel grounded and held.

All babies need safe, nurturing touch, and this is what massage offers. Infants are not fully developed at birth. They need help in every way to survive.

The bonding and attachment between newborns and their parents will be the most important foundation for the baby’s subsequent development and the way and the quality of the support in this process is crucial.

Infant Massage is all about mothers and fathers getting to know, and be in contact with their babies through touch. Massage can augment the continuing process of bonding and attachment, or for mothers who missed out on bonding at the time of birth. It provides for a re-engagement in the process.

In the classes, they see massage in action, demonstrating not only strokes, but helping parents learn the art of recognising baby’s cues, tuning into baby as they indicate pleasure or discomfort, initiating and holding eye contact, talking to and listening to what their babies have to ‘say’.

Through the medium of our skin, massage as ‘help’ has always had a role in relieving stress and offering comfort for both infant and parents.

For first time parents, having a baby and all that that entails can be a very very steep learning curve. Some parents can feel as though they are caught up in some sort of ambush, and wonder if they have done the right thing in starting a family.

Whilst massage is no panacea for the myriad problems that parent and infants can experience, evidence based studies during the last forty years have shown that infant massage can help to increase confidence and relieve some of the stress inherent in caring for your new baby. This is especially so during those first few weeks when confidence in handling, changing, feeding your new infant can be low.

All babies need safe, nurturing touch and that is what massage offers. Infants are not fully developed at birth. They need help in every way to survive. Teaching caregivers how to use massage offers them the opportunity to do something for their child that is comforting, loving, and is really relaxing for parents too.

While infant massage provides innumerable physiologic benefits to infants, it should not be thought of as a therapeutic treatment done to a baby. It is an affectionate interaction experienced with baby.