Hands-On Training Infant Massage Therapy Rubs Parents, Babies the Right Way

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Byline: Diane Dassow Daily Herald Correspondent

FYI

Here are some places to learn infant massage:

- Mary Fazio teaches in Hinsdale. New sessions start monthly and total three hours over the course of two weeks. For details, call (630) 325-3768.

- Pat Murray offers morning and evening classes in Elmhurst in a 90-minute session. For details, call Elmhurst Memorial Hospital's Health Match at (630) 782-7878.

- Sue Reader teaches infant massage to new parents at Central DuPage Hospital, Winfield. For details, call (630) 682-1600.

- Leslie Noble offers occasional infant massage classes at the Light Heart Center, Winfield. For details, call (630) 260-1084.

You won't find these babes in day spas or health clubs.

They have their own private masseurs and masseuses at home.

They're babies whose parents have discovered the pleasure and profit of infant massage.

Babies who are massaged benefit in many ways, say its proponents.

"There are well-documented studies on premature babies of nurturing touch promoting growth, better weight gain, better survival and better IQs," Dr. Ruby Roy. "You can extrapolate that to term babies, but it's not scientific."

Roy, a pediatrician at the Loyola Oakbrook Primary Care Center in Oakbrook Terrace, does not instruct parents to practice infant massage, but responds positively if they bring it up.

"I do talk to parents about the importance of touch," she said. "And what learning to massage a baby teaches a mother or father to do is to pay close attention to the baby, to be responsive to the baby. That's what will benefit the baby."

Massage therapists would add other advantages.

"There's a lot more to it than just having your baby feel good," said Mary Fazio, who teaches infant massage in Hinsdale.

Massage helps to maximize the important sense of touch, she said. And through that sense, the baby's brain is getting a message that helps it develop.

Using massage to stimulate touch has even more specific applications for parenting. It helps the parents bond with the baby, an important step for later social development, said Sue Reader, a nurse in labor and delivery at Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.

Reader trains parents in infant massage as part of the hospital's free, new-moms support group.

Massage therapist Leslie Noble maintains that massage can help reduce a baby's stress level.

What in the world do babies have to be stressed about?

"When you're totally dependent on another human being for everything, that's pretty stressful. …