Infant massage course outline.
The most important decision we can make is whether to believe we live in a friendly, or hostile, universe.
The primary goal of babies is to learn about the universe they have been born into. This is a period in which our view of the world, and our relationship to it, is being shaped.
For the baby, their parents are the beginning and end of their universe.
It is within the subtle, day-to-day interactions between a parent and baby that each of us comes to discover whether the world is, indeed, a friendly place or not.
The baby’s ‘universe’ is the setting for the social, emotional, genetic and brain development of each human being. In turn, this early development shapes the long-term mental health of individuals and communities. For this reason, more of us are looking for skills and tools we can use to ensure each baby’s world is a friendly one.
However, the broader community is largely unaware of the main way human development is shaped: through our relationships. In particular, it is shaped through the earliest interactions with our parents. The interactions that take place between parents and babies are often subtle, and sometimes invisible against the backdrop of other challenges. However, this does not mean they are trivial.
For a baby, responsive and sensitive touch, voice, movement and eye-contact are the neurological and developmental equivalent to the Big Bang. Neurobiology, medicine, psychology, sociology and even genetics research all pinpoint parent-infant interactions as being the source of our developmental pathways.
Responsive touch, movement, voice and eye-contact seem simple. But they are not. A parent’s ability to provide this sort of friendly world for their babies does not always come easily.
This training program provides health workers with a simple, unique and effective tool to support these interactions via The First Touch Program.
This course is taught in six major learning themes. Please see the infant massage course outline below for more information.
Infant Massage Course Outline – Theme 1:
Rethinking infant massage: The principles of high-quality infant massage education
Most people think of infant massage as an enjoyable “soft” activity for parents and babies. Some researchers have also found that infant massage can have an impact on a range of isolated clinical outcomes: such as weight gain and brain activity.
However, we generally under-estimate the potential impact of infant massage education on infant and brain development. Infant massage education is also often misunderstood, and there are many examples of infant massage interventions being applied without critical reference to the research.
In this theme we first explore the role of Touch in Human Development.
Secondly, we explore the history of infant massage education in Australia.
Finally, we then introduce the available research concerned with how infant massage education works, for whom, and under what circumstances.
This theme sets the scene for the remainder of the course, by inviting students to think critically about the context and framework of infant massage research and delivery of parent education.
Infant Massage Course Outline – Theme 2:
Parent-infant interaction: The heart of attachment
A child’s attachment pattern, by definition is not consolidated until the age of around 2 or 3 years. Yet the foundations for these patterns are established during the first year of life. How do we support or respond to something that we (and parents) cannot yet see or measure or fully experience? To do this, we must first shift our attention from attachment as a goal. We must then more deeply understand the basic mechanisms of attachment during infancy: touch, eye-contact, facial expression, movement and voice.
This theme explores a simple 5-step framework. This framework forms the basis of the First Touch Program, and is based on the work of Vimala MClure. Using this framework, we are able to pay closer attention to the ways that parents and babies use touch and other interactions to have a “conversation” with each other. In turn, we see attachment as the result of the shared meanings that arise from this conversation.
The job of an ‘expert’ is to give knowledge to parents about attachment. Our influence is limited to the supply of brochures, information, instruction, advice, charts, diagrams and lists. But we can move beyond this ‘expert’ role by viewing focusing on the parent-baby conversation. Our role, therefore, is no longer to advise. Instead, our role expands to one of holding space for a conversation to unfold. Because early development takes place in the space between the parent and baby, this helps make our influence stronger. There are many different ways we can create and hold this space. We explore some of these as part of this theme.
In this theme we also explore different ways in which parents and babies have their own conversations. We also consider where we should place ourselves in this space, and how this influences the interaction between parents and babies and the meanings they create.
Infant Massage Course Outline – Theme 3:
The authentic conversation
Attachment is often talked about as a goal. This naturally leads us to focus on what a parent needs to do (or know) in order to “achieve” attachment. In this theme, however, we view attachment as the quality of conversation that parent and baby have with each other. This helps us become more attuned to the ways that parents and babies “hear” each other…rather than being fixated on our opinion about what they “should be saying” to each other.
In this theme we work through some of the protocols and considerations that the facilitator uses to deliver the First Touch Program. These approaches enable us to support parent and baby in communicating more authentically with each other. In turn, this helps us to nurture the relationship between them.
The modules in this theme are mostly practical. We will provide you with the framework and activities for delivering the First Touch Program. These activities reflect the idea that the role of the facilitator is not to direct parents how to interact or what to “do”. Rather we use our activities to enable parent and baby to use touch, massage, voice and other interactions in an authentic and personal way to communicate with and “hear” the other.
Infant Massage Course Outline – Theme 4:
The baby as teacher
We often hear the expression that the “parent is the expert”. But how often do we take the time to think about what this actually means? Or to consider the actual pathway to engaging a parent’s expertise? What does parent expertise look like? Is it related to their knowledge? Skill? Intuition? Can the parent still be an expert without having knowledge, skill or awareness of their own intuition? How is their “expertise” gained? What do we do when a parent’s expertise conflicts with our professional knowledge about infant development and needs?
In this theme, we try to overcome these (and other) difficulties with the parent-as-expert concept. To do this, we need to consider the parent’s expertise in the broader context of their relationship with their baby. We introduce the idea that the baby plays the central role in the development of their own parent’s expertise.
The more we can foster the baby’s role as a Teacher, the less tricky it becomes to engage the parent’s expertise.We explore this idea by examining the ways that babies communicate. This occurs through their use of body language, body positions, body movements, eye contact, facial expressions, voice and skin. We explore the link between these expressions and their underlying neurological and emotional states. This theme asks students to build their ability to notice these behaviours and to become curious about what the baby is teaching us. This allows us to more directly draw out the infant’s role as the teacher…and the parent as expert…within the infant massage education setting.
Infant Massage Course Outline – Theme 5:
Parent-baby infant massage classes
These practical sessions allow you to observe, reflect on and practice the delivery of the First Touch infant massage Program. The sessions are designed to support you to apply the themes, principles and theory in a real-life infant massage education setting.
Parents and babies join the class-room for a modified/ abbreviated version of the First Touch Program over three days. Trainers and students will work together to run the infant massage groups together. As a result, students can practice and observe the program delivery and dynamics in a supported environment.
In these sessions, students are immersed in the real-life, spontaneous dynamics, interactions and communication occurring between facilitators, parents and babies during a First Touch Program. We then review our observations in-depth. Our experiences are considered in the context of the function of parent-infant interaction, infant cues, the baby’s role as the teacher, and other key themes.
Infant Massage Course Outline – Theme 6:
Beginning as an infant massage educator
Moving into independent practice opens up many challenges and questions. For this reason, we assist you to navigate some of these challenges by introducing some relevant topics and resources. We will explore some of the legal and professional regulations that impact on parent educators. We will also explore some methods and approaches you can use to engage parents and colleagues in the First Touch Program.