Massage therapy is known to be especially beneficial for children, and can address not only their physical ailments, but their emotional care as well. Even if your child doesn’t have any health conditions, they may still be experiencing pressure academically and socially more than ever before. Infant massage is an important way to communicate with baby and to build trust and understanding.
There are some very clear distinctions between the two modalities of infant massage and pediatric massage. Pediatric massage generally applies to children up to age 18, and infant massage is specialized for children up to 12 months. It’s important to know how each modality can help your child and why it’s important to start massage as early as possible.
Benefits of Infant Massage
When a child is born, parents and caregivers are encouraged to use nurturing touch as soon as possible. Infant massage therapy can encourage more balanced emotional, cognitive, and physical development. The parents and caregivers who administer infant massage should be trained by a certified infant massage teacher. Infant massage teachers demonstrate how to use gentle massage techniques, to recognize their baby’s cues, and understand their unique styles of communication.
From a medical perspective, massage can aid in weight gain, support immune function, optimize neurological functioning, improve digestion, and decrease stress hormones. Studies show that premature/low-birth-weight infants who received daily massages showed greater weight gain and shorter hospital stays in comparison to control groups who did not receive daily massages. In addition to the health benefits of infant massage, massage may soothe common discomforts, promote restful sleep for the infant, and increase bonding.
Benefits of Pediatric Massage
Children need nurturing touch to grow and reach their full potential. In studies performed by massage therapy researchers, regular massage helps children experience better sleep, stress reduction, fewer growing pains, reduced stress hormones, increased IQ, improved concentration, decreased anxiety, increased focus, and decreased aggression.
For children with health conditions, massage and nurturing touch can provide the child with many physical and psychological benefits to boost their healing. Pediatric massage therapy has been known to help children with numerous health issues including (but not limited to): autism, broken bones and fractures, cystic fibrosis, depression, HIV/AIDS, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, scoliosis, and sprains.
Researchers have found that children with autism who receive massage therapy show less stereotypical autistic behavior, are more social and attentive, have a decrease in aversion to touch and an increase in concentration, and have less anxiety. Pediatric massage might provide relaxation, stress reduction and calm muscle spasms. Over time, the child typically becomes more accustomed to tactile stimulation and the benefits of regular pediatric massage are amplified.
For children under significant stress, who have experienced loss, are subject to peer pressure and bullying, have learning, cognitive or anxiety disorders or may be at a higher risk for depression, a regular massage program is especially helpful. Depression is typically characterized by feelings of hopelessness, sadness and/or changes in mood and behavior, although symptoms of depression vary with each individual child.
Massage therapy helps ensure safety, trust and open communication between the pediatric client and therapist. It is not up to the massage therapist to diagnose any health condition; rather, we use our training and experience to explore the possibilities that skilled touch can bring to support your child’s health and well-being. If you’re interested in learning more about how massage therapy can help your child, please give me a call. We can determine together how massage therapy can make a positive impact on your child’s life.