The lovely Polly from The Bath Massage Company talks to us about the rising popularity of baby massage…
Why do you think baby massage has exploded in popularity over the last few years?
I think a key reason is that healthcare professionals, as well as educators and researchers, have begun to discover and acknowledge the benefits of infant massage in both critical care and well-baby environments, which has led to its promotion. Midwives, NCT teachers and GP’s, to name a few, now recognise that massaging your baby has many benefits and recommend parents try it with their babies. It’s great that the healthcare industry promote it as I feel that previously it was seen as a ‘fad’ thing to do with your baby – research has been carried out and results are available, but there is still much more research being done in terms of measuring the effects and physical reactions; I’m delighted (and very excited) that the International Association of Infant Massage has helped fund some research that is currently being worked on through a Warwick University which will reveal results in the next couple of years.
What qualifications do teachers such as yourself have to do in order to run baby massage classes?
To run a class you need to have gained a certification as an Infant Massage Instructor. The IAIM, International Association of Infant Massage are the founders of baby massage in the UK and worldwide. The association was founded by Vimila McClure back in the 1970’s and today is the largest and longest running training programme dedicated solely to infant massage. I trained with them back in 2011 and loved how they taught. There are a few training schools out there, but the IAIM are really the leaders. If you go to a class where the teacher has trained with the IAIM you will receive the highest level of teaching and knowledge so it’s always worth checking out who they trained with.
Whilst the benefits for babies are obvious, I’m guessing it’s also a great place for new mums to connect with one another?
This is the one thing mums always comment on! It’s such a great place to meet new mums and chat about all things baby related, although the conversations aren’t always about babies! But I know that parents coming on my course say that they have really benefited from meeting other mums – and because the babies range in ages it is a really good opportunity to ask each other about different stages, what to expect, advice, tips etc, it’s a great community.
Your classes, do you run courses over a set number of weeks or can people join any time?
The courses run for 5 consecutive weeks, with a 6th session which is just for the dads/partners. Parents may not be aware of this but any trainer who has trained with the IAIM will run their course for 5 weeks, and there is a reason! We like to introduce babies to massage at their own pace. In my class we watch their cues and introduce new strokes gradually, week-to-week. During the class parents will be introduced to new information each week and build on previously taught techniques. Classes are designed to build relationships between parent and baby to instill trust and create positive associations. They also encourage engagement between parents fostering opportunities for ongoing support and friendships long after the classes are over. 5 weeks is what we have learnt through research and training to be the best course length.
I do offer one to one sessions also. These are particularly good for parents who may want to learn together as a couple and in the comfort of their own home, or may have personal reasons for not wanting to be within a group. I have worked on a one to one with mothers who are suffering with postnatal depression, fathers who have returned from long periods away with work, and also with babies who have health issues and disabilities.
I know you have a website dedicated to baby massage, presumably all the relevant details are on there?
I do, yes I decided to launch a dedicated website recently so that parents could use it as a source of information about baby massage. On it I have a blog section which is regularly updated with articles of interest, research topics and details of my courses. It also details the course dates and there is a secure online payment function – www.bathbabymassage.co.uk
Typically how old are the babies when they join you?
It really does range from 4 weeks old upwards. But I’d say over all the average age is between 4 to 16 weeks. Many mums join the class when their babies are newborn to help with newborn symptoms like Colic, wind and Reflux, but the massage offers benefits for older babies, like teething pain and colds.
And is there an upper age limit?
In the class it’s 1 years old. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t massage your baby after they are 1.
I put an age limit on it because as your baby grows the massage has to be adapted as they become more mobile so it has to be manageable in the group.
How big are your classes?
I have purposely kept my classes quite small and I only take up to 7/8 in a class. The reason for this is that I wanted to create a calm and peaceful environment where mums can focus on their babies and build their bond through massage – if the class was any larger it has the potential to be very noisy and stressful for the mums and babies. I always get feedback from mums that they really enjoy the small groups, not just because it’s calm, but because as a teacher I can give individual attention to each of them and makes sure that they are learning the strokes correctly. They also have the opportunity to get to know each other one to one, I’ve had several groups that have continued to meet up long after the course has finished, I love that!
What makes your classes different to others in the area?
I’m going to answer this by quoting a mum who recently came on my course.
She said that she had been on another baby massage course with her first born a couple of years before, and said how different and much better my classes were. I asked her why? She replied that it was more hands-on, interactive and a personal experience. She went on to say that my teaching was more thorough and more in-depth in terms of explaining why we did the massage a certain way and what the benefits of each stroke were. She also said the environment was more relaxing and good fun, and she liked the combination of massage teaching, topics of discussion and the interactive time with each other. She then went on to say that I had made her feel really comfortable and more confident with her baby through the massage. I think she summed up what I’d like to think my classes offer.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you in one of your classes?
Gosh, I’ve certainly heard some funny baby stories from mums, like the mum who left her prams wheels overnight in a supermarket car-park and in the morning when she went to take her baby out for a pram stroll realised what she had done! (she did go back to the said shop in question and someone had handed them in!). And the time a mum was so tired she left the house still in her slippers and after walking across the city arrived at a baby café only to realise her error! But as for me it’s probably not considered funny but in the situation you had to laugh – I had a baby who had been very, let’s say ‘blocked up’ who came for a one to one session – after the session I had a little cuddle with him before he left and well, the massage his mum had just done took effect & I pretty much got covered, thank goodness I had a change of clothes!
And your proudest moment?
I don’t have a 1 proudest moment but I always feel immensity proud when I get a parent who may have struggled with being a new patent and what it entitles who really benefits from the class. I’ve had many who personally thank me for helping their confidence, and bonding process with their little one. It’s one of the reasons I love teaching baby massage is to see the help it offers parents.
Course dates: Monthly on a Thursday, and private sessions can be arranged on other days.