by Tina Allen, LMT, CPMMT, CPMT, CIMT
Updated April 2016
Asking your Baby's Permission to Provide Massage
Every massage session starts with asking your baby's permission to provide massage. This shows respect for your baby as a person. Even though many young babies cannot verbally respond with a resounding “yes or no”, your asking permission will make you more sensitive to baby’s mood, and help you to recognize if they are ready for this type of nurturing interaction. Before you start the massage, relax and begin to warm your hands. While warming your hands and making eye contact, you should ask verbally aloud, “May I give you a massage?” Then take a moment and carefully begin to watch your child for communication cues indicating if it is okay to proceed with the nurturing touch session
Common cues that indicate permission has been granted are seen when an infant:
- Has become still (stops moving)
- Has smooth movements of arms and legs
- Is smiling and their face is bright
- Is cooing, babbling and/or talking
- Has wide open eyes
- Has raised eyebrows and is raising their head
- Is looking toward you and is gazing into your eyes
- Has an open-mouth and may be making tongue thrusts (like licking lips)
- Is putting their hands in their mouth and grasping for things, such as reaching for you
- Is snuggling with you
- Demonstrates bursts of playful wiggles
These same cues help you, as the caregiver, to know when your infant is ready for stimulation and interaction, whether through massage, or other playful time together. By engaging in appropriate nurturing interaction, at the infant’s pace, you are using nurturing, caring and respect to improve our child’s overall healthy growth and development.
Why Permission is Important
Infant massage is always linked with a simple "permission process”. When used together these practices help to reinforce the parent’s respect for the child and begin to establish positive boundaries, as well as, contributing to building an infant’s body awareness.
We specifically ask permission prior to beginning infant massage for many reasons, including:
- Lets baby know that something is about to happen
Checking in with your baby, rather than just assuming touch is okay, shows respect for your infant’s voice, and choice to receive nurturing touch, or not. By showing your child a strong cue before massage, you are not only showing respect, you are communicating in a way that they will understand.
- Over time baby begins to recognize this permission cue as Massage Time, and baby will respond with a cue that they are ready for massage
At no other time will you use this specific signal, or cue, to indicate to your baby what will happen next. This distinct permission process communicates your intention, and allows your baby time to evaluate how they are feeling and respond to your request to provide nurturing touch.
- Gives Parents/Caregivers an opportunity to check-in with baby and observe their cues
Touch is our first form of communication so, it is natural to assume that communicating through touch enhances your ability to understand baby’s special needs and respond appropriately. Infant Massage increases the caregiver’s confidence and sensitivity to baby’s unique cues and forms of communication. By relaxing, taking your time and making eye contact, you can accurately observe your child’s expression, and non-verbal language. Over time you will become more attuned to their needs.
- A simple permission process supports healthy touch and helps establish good boundaries
When we start asking permission to touch during the most formative years, we reinforce the concepts of good touch versus touch that may not be seen as good or positive touch. An infant grows into a young child they will carry with them these healthy and strong boundaries around touch. Not only will they know the difference between healthy touch and touch which is considered detrimental, they will also trust themselves and know when to request nurturing touch.
- Establishes respect between caregiver and child, instilling lifelong benefits including self-worth and self-esteem
Infant Massage provides the caregiver with essential one-on-one time that will enhance your bonding, understanding and ability to nurture. When babies receive attentive responses to their needs, they grow to become healthier and more secure in adulthood.
Infants and children who learn positive views of touch and receive nurturing touch by their caregivers are much more likely to grow into adults with healthy self esteem, a sense of their boundaries and increased self trust.
Specially trained Certified Infant Massage Teachers (CIMTs)
Through working as a Certified Infant Massage Teacher you have the special opportunity to impact an infant and their family for a lifetime.
This professional training is for those interested in working with families by becoming a Certified Infant Massage Teacher (CIMT). A CIMT is not only an instructor, but also an educator who teaches the art of infant massage to parents or caregivers in the presence of their babies.
For more information visit Comprehensive Infant Massage Teacher Training Course (CIMT)
(If you would like to republish the above article, please e-mail your request and where it will reside to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send you a short bio you can use with it for your site.)