FREE BABY MASSAGE CLASSES IN IPSWICHI have been a Health Visitor for over 30 years, and a CIMI since early 2000`s, trained by Sylvie Hetu. The area that I was working in then, baby massage was offered to all and classes run routinely by Health Visitors and the Nursery Nurses. This was then taken over by the Children’s Centres. Evaluated as a positive experience for both Mothers, babies and Staff, all the benefits that are well known to the converted were observed.
Over the years however I have experienced that Baby Massage does not sit high on Commissioners agenda. Perhaps seen as a “yummy mummy” activity and not worth investing training time and staff into? As an experienced Practitioner I am convinced that by involving massage early we would definitely not have the problems we see on a regular basis, bonding issues, fretful babies, colic etc.
In 2012 I was working in a County where Children’s centres were running courses, but long waiting lists for these existed, and babies were only taken on post 8 weeks. It was difficult to obtain places for those that were targeted, e.g. Mothers who showed signs of post natal depression. Also some Mothers could not manage a group session. One such family I can use as an example.
I was informed of Amy by the Midwife and Family Support Worker. Amy was 22 years old and pregnant with her second child, she was 37 weeks pregnant. During her first pregnancy there was involvement by Social Care. Amy and her partner Tom were both ex Heroin users, and both on replacement treatment. One of the concerns raised was that Amy rarely left the house, the 1 year old was not accessing sessions at the Centre and Amy missed health appointments.
I met Amy at home for a targeted ante natal visit. I was made welcome by her partner Tom, and her son Cody. It took Amy 30 minutes to come downstairs to meet me, she was anxious about meeting yet another Professional. She hardly spoke to me during the visit. One thing she was pleased about and accepted was the offer of 1×1 baby massage with me, to start at the New Birth Visit. The 1×1 sessions would last 12 weeks, to introduce the IAIM programme and time to consolidate this, and work with the family with other issues. I regarded this as a positive step. I had this approved by my Locality Manager who accepted my Professional judgement and objectives.
Amy had a history of depression, accentuated following the birth of her first born; she was not at that time on any medication for her depression. Amy was also on a reducing dose of Methadone, but also found it difficult to leave the house. She was also overweight and her self-esteem and self-worth was extremely low.
Following the birth of her daughter Cora I saw this family unit each week. Time was put aside specifically for Amy and Cora to engage with massage. The sessions were introduced as the IAIM programme. It was interesting to see Amy physically relax; gain a lot of comfort and positivity by engaging with her baby. Over the weeks I visibly noticed an improvement in eye contact from Amy with me, more confidence in handling Cora and successful breast feeding, despite a tongue tie,( which the hospital refused to snip) Cora was successfully breastfed for over 12 months.
During these sessions I got to know Amy and she engaged with me, confiding in the fact that she found it difficult to leave the house, she had a degree of agro phobia, and felt low because of her weight issues. She was unable to engage with the local Centres because of this, and having to deal with a lot of Professionals was daunting for her. Amy was “closed” for a long time; this was only resolved by being consistent and reliable. She also experienced conflicting advice from various Practitioners. It was therefore agreed amongst agencies that Health would be the key link and liaise with others as needed. This in the long term had a positive effect.
In time Amy and Tom both came off their treatment Programmes. With Amy’s permission I contacted her GP. A home visit was refused but did manage to explain her situation and arrange an appointment. Amy was then prescribed anti-depressants, and regular follow ups with the same GP, this prevented Amy having to explain herself repeatedly, which she found so hard to do. Her self-esteem improved, she started to go out and take Cody to groups. Amy contacted weight watchers and received advice and encouragement to lose weight. She began to feel better about herself.
At the end of the 12 weeks I asked Amy to evaluate her sessions. The results were profound. She had been worried about bonding with Cora because of previous Social Care involvement and her feelings generally. However she felt that the massage sessions were instrumental in the bonding process with Cora, time for them both. Amy had experienced positive times with her daughter and felt closely attached. She could easily pick up on cues and enjoyed feeding and skin to skin. Importantly for me she felt she could trust a Practitioner, who made no judgement and had no pre conceived ideas about the family drug history.
Cora developed into a happy, sociable and adaptable baby. I had no problems with her development. Cora has a strong bond with her Mother and is in a sustainable family unit. There was no involvement from Social Care as it was not deemed required. There were no trips to Clinic with colic, feeding problems, etc.
As a Health Professional, I strongly believe that by engaging with this family early and giving them the opportunity to have baby massage 1×1, made a profound difference to the health and social outcomes for Mother, baby and the family unit.
I am now working in a different part of the Country. Baby Massage is only offered as a Taster session in some Children’s centres. There are no plans that I am aware of to train Practitioners or include massage as part of the Core Programme delivery. The positive effects of massage are well known, researched and evidenced. I have witnessed and experienced this, both as Health Practitioner and also as a Grandmother. Baby massage increases a parent’s confidence in their ability to care and nurture their baby, and along the way develop a lifelong skill.
Barbara Anderson

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