Although infant massage has been widely practiced in cultures such as India and China for centuries, the practice only came to the United States in the 1970s.
According to a 1996 study by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School, infants who received massage therapy versus those who were simply rocked had positive sleep/wake patterns and were less fussy. Infants who are massaged also have less gas, says Jenny Simpson, a certified infant-massage instructor who owns and operates Birth and Baby Kneads at the Wellness Village at Starling.
Obviously, massaging an infant is quite different than an adult — no deep-tissue massage here. Simpson teaches parents to practice still, firm touches at first to give the baby a feeling of containment that's similar to the womb. Then, parents move on to a slow, firm-but-gentle movement.
Simpson teaches five-week sessions ($80 total) and one-on-one hour-long classes ($100 each) in the "womb room," a dimly lit space with relaxing sounds to simulate the mother's womb.
Daily infant massages usually last 20 minutes, but of course that depends on the child's temperament. It's good to continue the practice past infanthood. In fact, when Simpson learned about infant massage, her son was 2 years old; the practice helped him calm down for bedtime. "You're setting yourself up for a pattern in life," she says.