We were so pleased to receive this from one of our recently qualified CIMI’s telling us her experience of teaching baby massage in a woman’s prison….. what a heartlifting account!

“I work in a Women’s prison with pregnant ladies, new mums and those with older children. We have a dedicated mother and baby unit, where Mums stay with their babies and care for them full time whilst also serving their prison sentence. Where women cannot care for their baby on a full-time basis, their baby may go into foster care or care of a family member (known as Kinship care) and the mother will be taken to see her baby several times a week. One such Mum is Louise. Louise has a seven-week-old baby Tommy. Louise started her sentence when she was six months pregnant and will be released from prison when Tommy is three months old. Louise has contact with Tommy three times a week and, all being well, he will be rehabilitated back into her care shortly after she has left prison. In order to promote and strengthen their attachment, I suggested we do some infant massage sessions.

Louise was keen to get started. Her contact with Tommy takes place in a social work office roughly 30 minutes from the prison. Louise is taken there by G4S and I meet her at the contact centre, along with my massage doll. I gave Louise time to reunite with Tommy. He was sleepy at first, but it soon became clear that he was entering into an awake alert phase and I was keen to catch him while we could. This was an ideal time for me to explain the various states of a young baby and when a baby would be most likely to positively receive a massage and have no other needs to attend to.

When I run massage groups in the community, I can control the environment, making the room as warm as I need, adjusting the lighting to create a cosy ambiance and adding finishing touches such as flowers, tissues and tea and biscuits. Unfortunately, this is not quite as easy in a social work office. Our two-hour contact session normally takes place in a meeting room, most of which is filled with a large meeting table and office chairs. There are also two G4S staff and a social work assistant as well as Louise, Tommy and me. We find a cosy spot on the floor and Louise lays down a changing mat and a fleecy blanket. Baby Tommy is happy on the mat, making cooing sounds and looking around. I set up my mat next to Louise and explain about suitable oils and then we get started.  Tommy appears to love every moment. I sing some nursery rhymes as we go along. Tommy coos and makes eye contact with his Mum and afterwards he stretches into his own little chilled out zone, his eyes fixed on his Mum.

It goes to show with the right approach and consideration of the environment, massage can be a positive experience in any setting. Tommy is clearly unaffected by the lack of ambient lighting and finishing touches. He enjoyed the closeness, the attention, the massage and the loving touch from his Mum. We have arranged that I will come along to one contact session a week for the next four weeks and that Louise, armed with her new knowledge, will do the massage with Tommy at the other contact sessions. This will help build the relationship between Louise and Tommy as well as starting some early communication between the two of them. This will help Louise to meet Tommy’s needs and increase Louise’s confidence as a mum. It will also help Tommy build resilience which will support him as he moves from foster care and back into full-time care with his Mum and siblings”.

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