“Bonding is not an event; it’s a process. It’s never too late to bond,” says Lyle Truscott, a mental health clinician for the 0-5 program at A Better Way’s San Francisco office. Lyle works with children under the age of 5, providing non-direct play therapy and child parent Psychotherapy (CPP). Additionally, she is a Certified Educator of Infant Massage (CEIM). As a CEIM Lyle is able to offer infant massage training to parents and caregivers to improve attachment and bonding within families. She can also present information about infant massage in her community, participate in research studies, and conduct in-service programs.
The infant massage program Lyle offers was created by Vimala McClure and was based on her lived experiences during her travels. However, Ms. McClure stresses that infant massage has been around long before that. The practice is rooted in many cultures around the world. More specifically she states that, “Infant massage is an ancient art that connects you deeply with the person who is your baby, and helps you to understand your baby’s particular nonverbal language and respond with love and respectful listening. It empowers you as a parent, for it gives you the means by which you become an expert on your own child.
The Benefits of Infant Massage:
The Benefits include enhanced motor development and reduced cortisol (the stress hormone). It’s especially beneficial to babies born premature or addicted, and HIV+ babies. The bond between the infant and caregiver is increased whether it’s a mother, father, foster parent or even siblings. The caregiver is more confident and it may even help mothers experiencing postpartum depression. Enhanced sleep is also a benefit…if infant massage is included in the bedtime routine it can reduce stress for caregivers.
Infant Massage USA’s Program Emphasizes Four Benefits:
The Four Modalities the Massage Strokes are pulled from are:
A Typical Infant Massage Training with Lyle:
When caregivers participate in an infant massage training with Lyle, they can expect to attend five structured 30 minute to 1-hour sessions. The length of time of each session is dependent on whether or not the training takes place in a group setting or one on one. The caregiver will participate with their infant ranging in age from 6 weeks to pre-crawling.
Initially you will discuss what infant massage is, when it was founded, its purpose, benefits, and the best oils to use. She also lets participants know that infant massage is baby-led. Throughout the training parents are shown how to ask for permission before administering any massage strokes. Caregivers are also supported in recognizing and picking up on the feedback their baby is giving.
Session 1: Focuses on legs and feet
Session 2: Focuses on stomach
Session 3: Focuses Chest and arms
Session 4: Focuses on face and back
Session 5: Review and gentle movements
Something caregivers should know: as a trainer Lyles never massages your baby. She only demonstrates the strokes using a baby doll, she affectionately named Maisie. This ensures that the trainer, Lyle in this case, does not intervene in the essential bonding and relationship strengthening taking place between caregiver and child.
Every session ends with a discussion, allowing caregivers to talk to each other about the process if in a group setting. Otherwise, a discussion takes place between the caregiver and Lyle, about what they would like to get out of the training. She ends each session with a nice closing, for example a song or whatever is appropriate for the client.
Lyle spoke to walking away from infant massage training's feeling grounded and relaxed. The power of touch can’t be overlooked; it is more valuable than any toy you can buy a child to soothe and entertain them. Infant massage is a holistic process because it is a non-invasive therapy that supports the whole baby. It empowers caregivers and encourages a strong bond built on trust and respect between caregiver and child.
Written By, Taisa Grant
Patrick Schirmer, LMFT is a school based therapist and clinical supervisor at A Better Way, Inc. He has been practicing therapy for six years and has been working in schools with children his entire adult life. He has been trained extensively in using family therapy over the years and continues to grow and learn from every interaction with a child and their family.
Taisa Grant, is the Data Analyst at A Better Way and a content creator on our marketing team.