The Debate is on – Pediatric Massage vs. Infant Massage

January 16, 2021

Understanding the difference between Pediatric and Infant massage depends first on defining infant and pediatric terms.

Suppose you are working in a pediatric hospital or healthcare environment.

In that case, some will say that the word “pediatric” is an “umbrella” term that covers all of the patients in that facility from birth to discharge age from the hospital (often 18 years old). Others have the idea that there are pediatric populations in the healthcare setting but that the infant category is limited to the age of 0 – 12 months and thus often requires different stages of care.

There are some obvious distinctions between the two modalities of Infant and Pediatric massage when it comes to Touch Therapy.

What is Infant Massage?

Infant Massage is the ancient tradition of providing nurturing touch to communicate and bond with babies. Massage can help foster mutual trust and understanding between the caregiver and the child.

Infant Massage is a technique utilized with babies that can often be started once the baby is at least three weeks old. When possible, parents and caregivers should use nurturing touch with their children as soon as they are born.

For babies born prematurely, CIMT®s must adapt to specialized massage techniques. However, generally speaking, we would use the three week minimum age as a starting period for healthy children.

Typically, Infant Massage is administered by parents and caregivers who have been trained by Certified Infant Massage Teachers in private and group sessions. Infant Massage teachers teach parents and caregivers to use gentle massage techniques as a method of understanding their baby’s communication and to enhance their development.

Clinical research has demonstrated that massaging babies can aid in their healthy growth and development, may soothe common discomforts, promote restful sleep for the infant (and in turn, the caregivers), and can increase healthy attachment and bonding.

Evidence has also shown that babies who receive massage have increased weight gain, improved immune function, and decreased stress hormones. When parents provide massage, their babies may experience optimal neurological function and improved digestion.

The benefits achieved with Infant Massage Therapy are needed to achieve appropriate emotional, cognitive, and physical development.

What is Pediatric Massage?

It is somewhat easier to think that a child who has been hospitalized or diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition may benefit from the use of massage therapy. However, healthy children have just as many indications for receiving Pediatric Massage Therapy. Children need nurturing touch to grow and reach their full potential.

We aid in their restful sleep, stress reduction, and comfort growing pains with touch therapy. Studies performed by massage therapy researchers reported benefits for typically developing children to include improved concentration, increased focus, and decreased aggression.

Some researchers even say that regularly receiving massage therapy may result in increased IQ.

Research has indicated that massage therapy can ease physical symptoms and emotional discomfort associated with pediatric medical conditions.

Children with Autism have reduced levels of the stress hormone (cortisol). Their aversion to touch decreases while their ability to focus increases. Pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis report feeling less anxious, and their ability to breathe and pulmonary functions improved, and children with mild to moderate juvenile rheumatoid arthritis notice decreased anxiety.

How to incorporate Infant and Pediatric Massage into your practice:

Both Infant and Pediatric Massage therapies offer opportunities to grow your practice while at the same time helping instill nurturing touch, respect, and care into the lives of children.

Becoming a Certified Infant Massage Teacher (CIMT®) allows you to provide families with information and hands-on lessons, so parents feel confident in providing massage for their child. When we teach caregivers to use massage appropriately, we provide them with the tools and techniques to further strengthen their connection with their children.

At the same time, parents learn to use massage to comfort their children, aid in their sleeping process, and even address common childhood discomforts such as teething, congestion, and constipation. When we give parents these tools, we encourage mutual respect, communication, and understanding that lasts a lifetime.

With pediatric massage therapy, safety and knowledge are essential. There is a common misconception that child clients are the same as adults, only smaller. However, we must consider the different developmental considerations.

Whether you wish to add pediatric massage therapy to your existing private practice, spa, clinic, or expand into a healthcare setting, certification as a pediatric massage therapist is essential. With pediatric massage, you are using evidence-informed techniques to best care for a child who may need healthy touch as a means of easing stress and anxiety associated with bullying at school or with minimizing pain due to their specific medical diagnosis.

This professional modality uses unique methods of communication and connection to help children feel safe, respected, and open to receiving nurturing touch.

Many healthcare providers are looking for a way to specialize in their practice and often combine the two modalities to create the best experience for infants, children, and families.

Infant and Pediatric Massage Therapy is an exciting and growing field, as these two modalities continue to receive mainstream medical credibility.