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November 03, 1995 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1995-11-03

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MASSAGE page 62

Such accelerated development
was measurable, too, in dollars
and cents. The gains in weight,
growth and behavior of the mas-
saged infants allowed them to
leave the hospital about six days
earlier. In 1986 Miami, that
amounted to an approximate sav-
ings of $3,000 per child.
Infant massage, however, need
not stop at the hospital door. In-
stead, it can become part of par-
"Knowing that massage can
have such a dramatic effect on
premature infants, imagine what
enhancement it has for normal
babies," says Ms. Javril, who also
teaches mothers and fathers how
to touch their babies therapeuti-
"Parents learn what's OK They
are building confidence and learn-
ing neat tricks — how to calm the
baby and not make mistakes."
Yet Ms. Javril cautions that
infant massage is inadvisable un-
der certain conditions, such as
when a baby suffers from heart
disease, infectious disease, can-
cer or undiagnosed lumps, kid-
ney disease, a fever higher than
101 degrees, skin irritation or dis-
charge, fracture, bleeding, burns
or other acute injury. Avoid ab-
dominal massage, too, until a
newborn's umbilicus has healed.
Babies, unlike adults, she says,
aren't passive during a massage.
They participate by using vocal
and physical expression to inter-
act and help accelerate the mas-
sage process.
It also takes much less time for
massage to create an effect on an
infant vs. an adult, Ms. Javril
says. Strokes she would use on
grown-ups for two or three min-
utes, she uses for about 30 sec-
onds on a baby. Pressure, too, is
softer. With infants she always
strokes outward to stretch mus-
cles and enhance circulation, and
she doesn't finish with an inward
sweep as she does with adults.
"Use the whole contour of your
hand as though it's part of (the
baby's) skin," she recommends.
"Letting her pull back and giving
me a little resistance with her
muscle tension can develop good
elasticity, so you don't have to
give in to it."
Firm but gentle is key. Most
important is to "read" the indi-
vidual baby, be tuned to the phys-
ical cues she's giving you, adapt
the massage, and be careful not
to overstress her.
Do not expect to follow a set
regimen. Also be aware that a
baby will tolerate massage for
only about five minutes.
"Nothing is routine with ba-
bies," says Ms. Javril, noting,
however, that certain times are
more conducive to success.
She recommends a quiet envi-
ronment away from distractions
and drafts, perhaps with a back-
ground of "twinkly music" flutes,
violins and harps because infants
respond more to higher registers.

To expand the sutures of the
skull, often compressed after a
long stay in the birth canal, Ms.
Javril gently holds the baby up-
side down, holding the feet and
pressing the arches with her
thumbs. She swings her slight-
ly back and forth and across, gen-
tly rolling her back onto the bed,
first the ear touching, then the
shoulder and the tucked body.
Upside down, the baby at first
may arch her spine, but eventu-
ally she'll unwind.
"Tissue memory from birth
trauma can be resolved really
early," she explains, warning not
to use the maneuver when a baby
is hungry or right after eating.
Generally, a baby is more re-
laxed immediately after a bath,
and it may be the only time she'll
lie flat for a massage. Otherwise,
parents can put the baby in sev-
eral different positions: face down
across the lap or face up in the
nursing position; sitting up and
facing out; lying face down or face
up along your legs with her head
at your knees.
It's also wise to incorporate
massage into other activities,
such as dressing, playing or ap-
plying sun block or moisturizer.
Eventually, parents learn
when their baby hits "quiet alert,"
the ideal state for massage. A
baby tends to have a heightened
awareness of surroundings when
she's awake and moving but not
agitated or stressed. That's also
when she has greater muscle
tone and can move her little limbs
in a more self-controlled manner.
"Try one thing at a time," ad-
vises Ms. Javril. "Just don't in-
While massage has proven ef-
fective for medically stable in-
fants, the healing power of simple
touch has even more remarkable
benefits for medically "unstable"
babies — those still in their iso-
lettes receiving oxygen and in-
travenous feedings and weighing
fewer than 1,200 grams.
Maria Mathias, an infant mas-
sage specialist at a University of
New Mexico federally funded pro-
gram for infants and children pre-
natally exposed to alcohol and
drugs, trains professionals to teach
infant massage to families through
the International Association of In-
fant Massage, based in Elma, N.Y.
She also teaches parents the so-
called "containment hold." Both
baby and parents benefit.
Not massage, not really a hug,
containment is "a nurturing
touch," Ms. Mathias says, and a
beautiful way to enhance close-
"Parents can be intimidated
with all the machinery," involved
in infant intensive care, she says.
In such a high-tech setting, it is
especially difficult for parent/child
bonding to occur.
"Sometimes the infants are so
medically unstable, parents keep
their distance," Ms. Mathias says.
MASSAGE page 66

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