HUG and Teaching Infant Massage… Complementary Modalities

Gale Touger, BSN is a nurse practitioner, lactation consultants (IBCLC) and trainer for HUG Your Baby. She shares with us today about her decision to enhance her training to become a  Infant Massage Certified Educator of Infant Massage.  Let's hear how this training adds to and complements her HUG Your Baby education and experiences.

A good healthcare professional is always on the lookout for new strategies to best meet the needs of the families with we serve.  When the good folks with the New Parent Support Program at Laurel Bay, a local military base, invited me almost a year ago to join a training for Teaching Infant Massage I was both grateful and excited.

As I moved through the elements of the training it became increasingly apparent that the family friendly language, strategies and skills of The HUG are a natural fit with the approach of Teaching Infant Massage. One of the International Association of Infant Massage goals of instruction for parent and baby is to encourage bonding and attachment through communication with the baby.  [1]  While teaching infant massage we are instructed to observe and support communication between parent and infant.  My training and experience with the HUG added another important layer to that communication: the tools to describe and help the parent see what I was seeing in the body and behavior SOSs (signs of over stimulation), and to explore with the parent what their baby’s body language might be communicating.

When teaching Understanding Your Newborn I encourage parents to practice their ‘eyeball exercises’ at every opportunity. The time when parents practice massaging their infant affords them a specific opportunity to hone their observation skills for recognizing when their baby is becoming over-stimulated, and to practice ‘decreasing stimulation’ and ‘increasing support.’[2]  I have discovered that applying these HUG techniques has helped parents watch their baby more discerningly, see when to modify or pause the massage and has enhanced the experience for parent and baby.

As part of our certification process we given a number of assignments, one of which was to choose address when a baby starts to cry strongly during class. I applied the HUG this way:

Once physical needs have been met a baby may cry because:
1.      The baby is over stimulated,
a.      Responding to the light, the sounds, the activity in the room.
b.      The baby’s routine has been disrupted and massage is ‘one more thing.’
2.      There is a part of the body or a certain stroke that is not comfortable for the baby.
3.      The baby is approaching a Touchpoint, or developmental surge, and her behavior, her responses are disorganized as she experiences this emerging change.

The instructor can create a supportive atmosphere by:
1.      Reiterate that we understand that babies will cry sometimes during massage class.
2.      Reassure mom/dad it is ok to do whatever they believe their baby needs (continue massage, adjust massage or take a break from massaging).
3.      If baby settles with holding and comforting but resumes crying when parent attempts to resume massaging, invite mom to sit in a comfy seat and observe so that they can be with the class in a way that meets baby’s needs.
4.      If the class seems receptive and agrees, this might be a teachable moment to pause the massage instruction and take just a few moments to demonstrate what HUG Your Baby teaches T.O. Do when a baby is over stimulated –
a.      T. = talk. Glance away from and speak quietly to baby
b.      O. = observe. Watch if baby does some things to soothe herself (Spacing out, Switching off, Shutting down, fencing reflex, sucking her or his hand)
c.      Do. = swaddle, sway, suck pacifier or at the breast
5.      After massage is completed, have an open discussion about crying babies – how parents feel with a crying baby, what have they discovered is helpful for their baby and for them as parents.

Now, after 10 months of study, practice teaching, reading and writing assignments and self-evaluation, I am pleased to report I am now an International Association of Infant Massage Certified Educator of Infant Massage. 

[1] Infant Massage USA Core Curriculum. IAIM Instructor Training. Received 1/25/16.
[2] HUG Your Baby: Helping Parents Understand their Newborn (Part 1).