Baby sleeping – how infant massage may help

by Selina Wilson

It seems that parents of today are encouraged to stimulate their baby with flash cards, musical appreciation, baby gym, swimming lessons and the list goes on, so as to provide optimum growth and development. A healthy baby given proper food and plenty of attention in a loving home will grow and develop at their own rate. Forget the array of stimulation from so called educational toys. Remember it’s your face, your eyes, your voice and your touch that are the most important learning and entertaining things for your baby.

Growth refers to an increase in size. This is gauged by measuring weight, length and head circumference. Development refers to your baby’s ability to learn all the skills to enjoy a full and happy life. These include movement, language, toilet training and play. These skills are grouped under the following headings:

Gross motor skills – involves control of large muscles i.e. walking, sitting up.

Fine motor skills – involves control of small muscles i.e. ability to pick up small objects with fingers.

Vision – involves the clarity and distance the baby can see.

Speech and Hearing Social behaviour and play.

Things that may effect and influence growth and development are:

Genetic – a small parent is likely to have a small baby, a father with a larger head is likely to father a baby with a large head.

Prematurity – full term is described as 40 weeks. If baby is born at 35 weeks then it can be expected to take an extra five weeks for milestones to be reached. i.e. If it is determined that a baby should be sitting up by 6 months of age then a baby born at 36 weeks will be more likely to be sitting up by 7 months. By the age of 4 years most babies born prematurely will have caught up to their peers.

Illness and/or prolonged hospitalisation  – the baby’s energy usually used for growth and development may be expended on recovery alone.

Environment and emotional deprivation – violent homes, homelessness or institutionalised/orphaned babies

Babies born with problems – i.e. Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy.
A baby is very busy achieving all these things a little more each day. Probably the one thing that does not develop over time is sleep. A baby needs to learn how to sleep. It is not something that gradually gets better with time and age. In the first weeks and months of a baby’s life they need to wake often during the night for a feed. Between 6 – 12 months 40% of babies continue to wake at night. This varies between waking for a feed and falling straight back to sleep to waking every 2-3 hours and staying awake. Furthermore, some babies who have slept well through the night from 3 months may still start to cry at night at this later stage.

The sheer volume of books written on the subject shows the extent sleep or lack there of effects the harmony of family life. Parents may attend infant massage classes to learn another way to help settle their baby. The instructor is aware that the parents may be extremely sleep deprived and have probably been given lots of suggestions already. They may be at their wits end and feeling totally inadequate in their role as a competent parent. They don’t need advice on what to do but rather support and understanding. The instructor’s role is to help connect the parent to their baby’ cues. The infant massage class will also give the parent tools of a calming activity which can be as beneficial to the parent as it is for the baby. Remember caring for babies is not always easy and everyone does what they have to do, especially during those exciting, strange and sometimes anxious early months.

References
Baby Love – Everything You Need to Know About Your New Baby, Robin Barker. Pan Macmillan Australia 2008

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