A group of young moms sits in a circle on the floor, some nursing, sharing anecdotes while their babies wriggle around before them.
Then the class begins.
“Use all five fingers,” Becky Nelson said. “Don’t massage like you’re drinking tea.”
Nelson is a registered nurse and an instructor for infant massage offered by the Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program.
The courses are offered to parents and their little ones to enhance bonding and good health through weekly one-hour sessions for four weeks.
There are numerous benefits to infant massage, said Marina Bigness, a social worker who has been teaching the class for five years. “It’s relaxing for the baby and parent, it helps develop a routine and it’s calming.”
Many parents experience the positive affects of baby massage without realizing it.
“Serotonin is released for new mothers, which helps combat post-partum depression,” Nelson said. Hormones released also help mothers stimulate their milk supply. Nelson is available to counsel new mothers on lactation, too.
Another major plus is the support parents in the course receive from fellow participants.
“Mothers can develop a support system in the class,” Nelson said. She and Bigness share information with the parents on play groups and local services.
Fathers and working parents are encouraged to participate in the course, too.
“The bonding time can be important for soldiers,” Bigness said.
For the babies, health benefits extend far beyond the mental aspects. The foot reflexology is good for the congestion and relieves sinus pressure, Bigness said. Other common problems, including constipation, colic and teething, can be improved through infant massage. The regular use of massage is of important.
“Routine is very important for little ones,” Nelson said. “It helps with sleep and improves behavior.
Each class begins with a discussion among the parents and instructors, with parents sharing what their babies enjoyed from the last lesson. The instructors pass around olive or grape seed oil and each parent asks for permission from their babies before beginning.
“The classes start with the legs and feet, which feels less invasive,” Bigness said. “And then we move to the hands and arms ... more restrictive massages.”
New mom Brittni Carpenter attended the Oct. 15 morning class. She enjoys the one-on-one time with her 2-month-old baby. “(The massaging) relieves gas — it’s been very helpful,” she said.
They sing nursery rhymes to their babies, keeping them comfortable in the warm, cozy room with blankets.
For participant Jessica Newingham, the massaging is key in helping her 8-month-old son Keoni relax at bedtime. “Now, my 2-year-old asks for massages, too,” she said.
Bigness and Nelson also offer home visits for infant massage.
These visits are good for families with very young infants who they don’t want to leave the home, as well as those with multiple, older children.
There are both morning and evening time slots available for the classroom course, and no age limit on the babies, though the instructors prefer them to be 12 months or younger.
“It’s determined on a case-by-case basis,” Bigness said.
The next class will begin Nov. 5. For more information and to register, call 254-553-2157.