Want to teach your baby to relax? Infant Massage itself is relaxing – and research has shown a reduction in stress hormones in a baby in the minutes and hours after a massage. Parents who massage their babies have also shown a reduction in stress hormones and an increase in positive mood hormones as they connect with their baby through massage.
But there are specific techniques taught in IAIM and Infant Massage USA infant massage classes that help a baby learn this life-long skill.
Vimala was the first to adapt the conditioned-response relaxation techniques from the childbirth education model to use with infants, calling it Touch Relaxation.
Touch Relaxation is based on conditioned response: the parent teaches their infant to respond to their touch and voice with relaxation. This is done by repeatedly using a positive reinforcement technique each time they do the massage. When the parent finds a place in their baby’s body that is stiff, tense, or that they have trouble “letting go of,” this is a way that the parent can help their baby relax.
Parents start by centering themselves, perhaps slowing down their own breathing. Then, gently holding or resting their hands on a tense area of their baby’s body, the parent encompasses and molds their hands to the area.
They gently tell their baby to “Relax”, or say “Can you relax your __?” Repeating it in the same soft tone, the parent uses very gentle shaking, bouncing, patting encompassing, and rolling motions to loosen up the tense area.
As soon as the parent feels any relaxation in that area on the part of the baby, the parent can praise the baby: “Wonderful! You relaxed your ___ .” Babies often like a high sing-songy voice for this praise. Then offer a hug or a kiss.
Repeat this Touch Relaxation process in some tense area of the baby’s body whenever you do the massage (or even at another time when the child needs it), and you will soon see an almost instantaneous relaxation. Not only has the parent taught the baby to respond to their voice and touch with relaxation, they have taught the baby to intentionally relax, a skill that will be useful for life.