After having my two beautiful boys and embarking upon my studies in Ayurveda and Ayurvedic yoga teaching; I stumbled across the modality of infant or baby massage…and I loved it!
The whole concept and idea surrounding utilising…touch…inspired me so deeply.
With post-natal depression being filled with so much disconnection between mother and child; the most heart-wrenching symptom or aspect of post-natal depression, which I certainly experienced in those 11 weeks; touch is a beautifully nourishing and connective process; that I had to dive right into learning all about!
I learned in Ayurveda about the importance of Abhyanga, or self-massage for the mother as being such a rejuvenating and nourishing practice to do for newly birthed mothers. Bringing the aspects of fire and earth elements, helps to soothe and pacify her agitated and aggravated nervous system that ensues post-delivery.
It made absolute sense to me then, that taking this one step further and allowing the mother (and of course father too…we do not need to discriminate; love and benefits know no boundaries here!) to utilise our sense of touch as being such a nurturing and connective practice to encourage; to enhance the cruel disconnection that occurs when biochemistry goes haywire.
So, I studied through IMIS; Infant Massage Information Services when I moved back home to Sydney to gain my qualifications as a PMC (Paediatric Massage Consultant) and CIMI (Certified Infant Massage Instructor) because I wanted to shout from the rooftops…as to how much this modality could help our women in their recovery from post-natal depression.
Being a PMC, allows me to teach other health professionals; be it midwives, child health nurses, doctors, obstetricians, psychologists, other pharmacists like myself, physiotherapists…the benefit and place of infant massage in the care of women and their children in the post-natal period.
I want all health professionals who are in the forefront of maternal care during pregnancy and post-birth, to know all the plethora of benefits that infant massage brings to both the mother and baby! Whilst a seemingly simple act; I want all health professionals to know all of the benefits that it brings (listed below), so that if they see that a woman is suffering from post-natal depression (or not!), that this forms a recommendation for their treatment protocol to help her in her entirety and piece together the broken shards that this dis-ease and condition brings to all those it affects.
It to me, is the piece of the puzzle in PND where current mainstream practice is missing; the disconnection that comes with post-natal depression.
Touch and the time spent between mother and child works to enhance;
+ Bonding and attachment
+ Maternal confidence and self-esteem
+ It can allow the mother to understand what the baby needs in such an organic and connective way; far more than the ‘routine’ aspects of feeding and changing; hello feeling comfortable, confident and grounded in this new ‘role’
+ It can enhance oxytocin; hello the love and connection hormone! Crucial here in the connection and bonding, especially for mothers with PND
+ It can reduce cortisol, which is the ‘stress hormone’ that governs the ‘fight or flight’ aspect within the sympathetic nervous system; a mother with anxiety, insomnia and depression does not need more cortisol!
+ It can positively impact the vagal nerve which is related to the digestive system and can has been associated with being connected to the production of GABA, the inhibitory neurotransmitter associated with anxiety, so this is wonderful!
+ It can increase the neurotransmitters Serotonin and Dopamine for both mother and baby; which can enhance mood, reduce anxiety and can help sleep (so important in the biochemical warfare that happens in post-natal depression as a result of changes in hormones…so this is a very important effect)
+ It can strengthen the immune system of the baby and reduce crying
+ It can increase weight gain for low birth weight babies (this can reduce the stress that ensues from low birth weight and being labelled ‘failure to thrive’…one of the many things that caused anxiety in my breastfeeding journey)
+ It can act as a pain reliever by enhancing endorphins which can be helpful for colic, teething and wind
Learning all of these benefits, has prompted me to revive or encourage all health professionals in understanding the impact of these, and as a mother who struggled day after day with PND, I can hand-on-my-heart say, that I wished someone had told me this when I was unwell!
My boys and I absolutely deserved to have even glimpses of respite…and whilst seemingly simple; this is such a beautifully nourishing, organic and connective practice that would only give rise to benefits between the relationship with mother and child…it could allow that disconnection to reduce, it could also allow this beautiful and divine baby to feel their mothers skin on theirs and how crucial this is for all involved!
I write in my book about how my eldest son Ari told me when he was around three that he remembered when he was little that I was ‘sick and dark’.
This shook me to my core because I felt like how could he remember the first 11 weeks of his life? I remember feeling so guilty and blindsided that how could he possibly know this?!
Perhaps, if I did try to spark our connection, try one tool after the next, that perhaps he would not have remembered me in such a vivid and confronting way?
Touch may have allowed for him to know that I did love him, that I was there…despite being engulfed by a huge dark cloud.
Perhaps, it would have allowed him to feel his connection with me, even though my heart-centre and brain-centre had been so awfully switched off.
This is why I want everyone to know about it!
All health professionals.
All women who have a baby.
All partners who have a baby also.
It is simple yes, but the benefits that it brings are undeniable and even small and minute shifts in biochemistry…confidence…bonding and attachment; is significant.
My CIMI qualifications allow for me to teach all mothers how to massage their babies; and this is something that I am so passionate about in educating our mothers (and fathers of course) in.
Imagine a world, where despite what scientific eruptions are happening inside of us that we cannot control (it is not your fault Mama); or where there are things happening in our life that are wreaking havoc on how we feel within, that this process of connection through massage can bring about so many wonderful effects…so that our babies would only ever know how loved…how precious and divinely sacred they are! Irrespective of everything else.
This is my why…and I will not stop until I reach as many women as I possibly can.