Interview – Massage therapist for babies, children and pregnant women (Andréanne Francoeur)March 2017

One professional, one path, many tips

 

 

What is massage therapy for babies and children?

 

Massage therapy is a technique that uses body massage to offer very diverse and comprehensive benefits on people of all ages, including babies and children. It is not limited to alleviating pain and tension. For example, it offers some relaxation, helps to let go and to deal with many problems such as stress or anxiety, as well as sleep and breathing issues.

 

Particularly for babies, I teach parents how to massage their child, because massage needs to become part of the daily routine for the bond of attachment to develop. These massages can be done before or after the bath, for example, as early as right after birth. In fact, this routine comforts and relieves the baby from discomforts like colic, etc.

 

Is massage therapy for babies and children different from massage therapy for adults?

 

Massages for babies and children are similar to those for adults. The same tools, gestures and techniques are used. For example, the child can choose to receive the massage on a chair or on a massage table. Also, children have as much stress to deal with as adults and may experience back pain from carrying backpacks that sometimes weigh half their own weight. They experience stress and anxiety in school, etc. That said, there are also significant differences between massage therapy for babies or children and that for adults. For a baby or a child, the therapist must adapt to them, go at their own pace and understand their non-verbal language. Most of the time, children can’t express precisely their discomforts or pain. Some babies or children don’t like being massaged because they are tired or just do not feel like it. The important thing is not the duration of the massage (it can last only 5 minutes), but its quality and the one to one attention paid by the parent to the child. The phones are disconnected, the lights are dimmed. The parent learns to listen to the child, to take a break in the family routine to indulge in this exchange with him or her. Also, parents learn to know their child better, even if they do not yet speak. Indeed, they can see what the little one enjoys in the massage when he or she smiles and what he or she likes less when he or she wiggles in sign of discomfort. The massage allows to weave a very strong bond of attachment between the baby or the child and the parents.

 

What can this method bring to babies and children? What kind of problems can massage therapy address in a baby or a child?

 

Benefits differ from one person to another and therefore from one infant or child to another.

 

The most common benefits of massage for babies are:

-        Stimulating muscles and blood circulation.

-        Relieving gas or colic (frequency and intensity).

-        Alleviating teething pain.

-        Regularizing sleep patterns in infants. Babies learn to relax, and their sleep will tend to become deeper and longer.

-        Increasing the awareness of the body and accelerating the acquisition of the sense of self. Parents can ask, for example, to the baby while massaging the foot: "whose foot is this? Is it your foot?".

-        Alleviating bad mood and irritability.

-        Promoting the formation of emotional and trusting bonds between parents and baby by offering a feeling of complicity, well-being to the baby. For example, upon the arrival of a new baby in the family, massage is a way for parents to give their full and comforting attention to their eldest child.

-        Fostering communication and mutual understanding between parents and babies. Parents may be more aware of their baby's non-verbal signals.

-        Comforting the baby by integrating the massage into a daily routine.

 

The most frequent benefits of massage for children (from 5 years old, with the beginning of school attendance) and teenagers are:

-        Decreasing muscular tension and pain due to growth.

-        Improving digestion and reducing constipation.

-        Promoting better blood circulation.

-        Improving lymphatic circulation (massage helps maintain a better immune system).

-        Considerably improving the quality and quantity of sleep.

-        Reducing stress and anxiety in children (which are very common symptoms due to our rhythm of life), learning to relax, to breathe well with techniques that they will practice for all their lives (before exams for example). It can help reducing stress in an adopted child arriving in his or her new family.

-        Awakening the sense of touch and helping to differentiate good touch from bad touch.

-        Improving concentration and helping the child realize that calm is necessary for concentration.

-        Increasing self-esteem.

-        Increasing the awareness of one's body.

 

When do you recommend to learn to massage a baby or to see a massage therapist for a child?

 

Normally, we can massage babies from birth, but I recommend learning to massage a baby when he or she is about a month old, when a routine has been established, all of this experience being so new.

 

You do not have to wait for a problem to arise to learn how to massage your child or take him or her to get a massage. Better be safe than sorry!

 

As soon as sleeping problems arise, a massage therapist should be consulted, because it means that there is pain or discomfort that the child can’t communicate with words.

What are the location and the average frequency of massage therapy sessions you offer for a baby or a child?

 

Most massage therapists offer group services, but I provide all the sessions at home (the room needs to be well heated), either with the couple or with friends. I want my sessions to be personalized and for them to adapt to the rhythm of the baby or the child (which is difficult to achieve in group sessions). I can adapt the session whether the child is hungry, wants to sleep, needs to be changed, and generally the parents and the child are more comfortable in their own environment.

 

For babies, on average, I offer three sessions, because this is enough for me to create a routine and to teach the main techniques of massage. It can be one session a week or one session every two weeks. It also depends on the parents. Between each session, parents can train and come back to me with their questions at the next session. The goal is for the movement to become natural for parents.

 

For children, they are mini-massage sessions, during which I help them if they experience pain or tensions, according to their rhythm. There may be a few sessions before the child is comfortable enough to get a “real” massage. Sometimes, I start with a massage on a chair and then on a table. After two or three sessions, I can massage the child’s arms, then his or her back, and so on. It really depends on each child. If he or she is anxious, I will progress slowly.

 

In addition, I provide parents with simple techniques to relax their child.

What is the classic course of a session with a baby or a child?

 

For baby massage classes, at the first session:

-        I talk to parents (both mom and dad) in order to adapt my lessons to their situation (whether their baby has colic, is agitated, sleeps well, etc.).

-        We then look at whether the baby is receptive to getting a massage. If it is not the case (for example, if he or she is asleep), we practice on a doll.

-        The child should be comfortable, the room should be heated, the lights should be dimmed.

-        We begin to show the massage techniques to the parents.

-        I end by giving a lot of information on digestion, the respiratory system, etc. In our training as a massage therapist, we have to take classes on anatomy, which allows us to answer many questions parents might have.

-        We can also massage the baby with toys, a ball for example.

Above all, it is important to take our time and progress slowly.

 

For the massage of a child (5 years and older), I will first have parents complete a health questionnaire to know the general health of the child: does he or she suffer from a specific illness? Does he or she take medication? Does he or she have blood circulation problems? There are contraindications to massage, for example hemophilia.

 

Then, I will speak with the child; I'll see if he or she is comfortable. If I sense that he or she is more reluctant, I will adapt my massage according to his or her pace. The massage at the first session can last only 5 to 10 minutes. Treatments of more than 30 minutes are rarely necessary. The duration of the massage can be increased gradually to 45 minutes, then to 60 minutes, depending on the child's ability to relax and his or her desires as well as those of the parents. A child of 12 years and older who is used to receiving massages could benefit from a session of 45 minutes to an hour.

 

How can massage therapy also help pregnant women?

 

Pregnancy comes with a lot of discomfort, pain and tension, for example in the back, legs, neck, shoulders, etc. because of the weight of the baby and the position of the body leaning forward. Massage can relieve the discomfort. It can help decrease constipation in massaging the belly. Massage promotes blood circulation, stimulates venous return and endorphin production by limiting adrenaline, improves skin moisture, soothes and induces deep relaxation and better sleep.

 

Moreover, massage is also very beneficial to the baby, because he or she also feels the calming effect of endorphins and is better oxygenated. Massage on the belly pleasantly stimulates baby’s sense of touch, the first of the five senses to develop in utero. It also allows privileged contact with the baby, whom, from the twelfth week, is very receptive to touch.

 

Postnatal massage is a treatment to recharge and to allow the body to recover more quickly. After the huge changes occurring during pregnancy and the first days of motherhood, it is important to rediscover one's body smoothly, to ease the tensions and to take care of one's emotions. It has been shown that massage can decrease the symptoms of baby blues and postpartum depression.

 

Massage therapy can also help overcome challenges such as fertility treatments by helping to let go and being more receptive to treatment.

 

Contraindications are mainly high-risk pregnancies involving pre-eclampsia (hypertension) or blood loss. This is why filling a health questionnaire before the first massage is very important.

 

What is the classic course of a massage session for future and new mothers?

 

I perform massages for new moms and moms-to-be at home so that they can enjoy the beneficial effects of the treatment by being at home afterwards.

 

Massage for a pregnant woman can be practiced by choosing different positions according to the tolerance of the future mom: lateral pose, laying on the back, on the belly, using a suitable massage table or a cushion specially designed to accommodate the round belly.

 

Many pregnant women avoid getting massaged before the end of the first trimester of pregnancy (12 weeks) because they are afraid of the risk of miscarriage. There is no problem getting a massage during the first trimester if it is provided by a massage therapist trained in massage therapy for pregnant women. On the other hand, if the future mother is concerned or not 100% comfortable, it is better to wait rather than to be stressed before, during and after the massage without being able to reap its benefits. A rested mother who takes care of herself communicates this happiness to her baby.

 

A session once a month for the first two trimesters is a good frequency, depending on the needs of the future mother. During the third trimester, with the discomforts of late pregnancy and the stress of the baby's arrival, weekly or biweekly sessions are often appreciated.

 

On average, how much does a massage therapy session cost?

 

On average, for 60 minutes, on the island of Montreal, it ranges from $70 to $90. I provide receipts for private insurance, some of which reimburse part of the massage therapy session’s cost.

 

The baby massage classes I offer at home cost from $100 to $110 for three sessions, as they are private classes that can be extended, for example if there are unforeseen events such as a mom who needs to breastfeed.

 

What are things to keep in mind in choosing a massage therapist?

 

It is very important to take the time to choose a massage therapist well. The main criteria should not be the cost but the massage therapist's approach, training and qualification (find a qualified massage therapist with at least 400 hours of training in Quebec, or 2,200 hours as well as the "Registered Massage Therapists" title in Ontario), the associations to which he or she belongs (some of them require to pass an exam in order to become accredited). Also to consider are the techniques he or she uses (for example, you will not make the same choice if you want to have a massage that relieves pain or if you’re looking for relaxation), personality and the impression you get when you call to make a first appointment. Do not hesitate to ask all your questions from the beginning. It is essential to be very comfortable and confident with the massage therapist in order to optimize the effects of the massage. Sometimes, you have to try several to find the right therapist. It is not because he or she has been recommended by a friend that he or she will match our needs.

 

What training did you get to offer massage therapy for babies, children and pregnant women? Do you need special training to treat children and future mothers?

 

I have been a massage therapist for over 10 years. I did Swedish massage training at l’Académie de massage scientifique and at Kinéconcept. I am also the mother of a 19-month-old boy and, during my maternity leave, I perfected my technique to offer massage to pregnant women, babies and children, as well as chair massage and hot stones massage.

I am also always on the lookout for new techniques, I learn a lot and regularly update my knowledge and techniques with new training in the field in which I specialize (babies, children, future and new moms).

 

How did you decide to become a massage therapist?

 

Since I was young, I have been attracted to the technique of massage and to alternative medicine (acupuncture, naturopathy, etc.) and I have always loved to take care of children.

I had a baby through in vitro techniques and treatments that lasted several years. I have realized and seen firsthand the benefits of techniques such as massage therapy and acupuncture to help me overcome this very stressful fertility process. Then, I saw the benefits of massage on my son. These elements gave me the motivation to train to offer massage therapy to babies, children and future and new mothers.

 

What do you particularly appreciate in your job?

 

I like making people feel better and appreciate the relational aspect of my job. I have always enjoyed to communicate and to listen to others.

 

What does the Mustela brand mean to you?

I love Mustela products because they are natural and of higher quality. For example, I used to wash my son with the gentle Mustela cleanser and I found that his skin didn’t feel dry after his bath. The product did not remove the natural protective film from my child's skin as do other products for babies and children.

These are products that have no alcohol or EDTA, etc., in them and they are hypoallergenic. They will not attack the new and fragile skin of my child. It is important for me to carefully monitor what I put on his skin and I trust Mustela for it. It is the same for the oils or gels I use for my massages.

Also, I love the ecological commitment of this brand. When you become a mother, you want your child to be healthy, but also to live in a preserved environment.

 

For more information on massage therapy for babies, children and pregnant women, visit:

 

Andréanne Francoeur’s website : bebemamanzen.ca

 

or : motherforlife.com

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