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Babies are in the air. Everywhere I go I see babies or pregnant moms. Among families and friends, it's no different. My children will have a few new cousins by year's end and a handful of new baby friends as well. This got me thinking of interesting baby gifts. I didn't want to give the same old baby clothes at this season's round of baby showers. I got a great idea while talking to my friend Kathleen. "My second baby was a fussy baby," she told me. "I was at my wits' end, and I learned a few infant massage techniques which became a life-saver in calming my baby."

Infant massage, what a great gift for a new mom, I thought. The next week I spoke with Laura Poore (619-886-6884; sdinfantmassage.com ), who was trained for infant massage through her job as a physical therapist. "I enjoyed it so much during the training that I decided to take it up on my own. I wanted to take massage back to where it's supposed to be used, with infants and families and as a bonding activity. Infant massage is for the bonding of the parents with their new infants. Touch and interaction create good hormones in both the parents and infant. It gets rid of stressful hormones in the bodies and helps the parent have a means to make their baby happy and make their baby relaxed. So it's definitely beneficial to both the parent and the baby. The dad doesn't have as many ways of interacting with the baby if they don't feed them, so massage can be a way that the dad feels he is really a part of that baby's life."

Poore says that infant massage also helps with colic or gas in babies. "There are certain techniques you can use on the stomach to help with gas or with colic. In some babies it can help them get into a better sleep routine by helping them learn to calm their body and fall asleep at night."

Is there a recommended order to do the massage?

"Along with the class, we give out a book for parents who want a more organized method. It recommends a 20- to 30-minute structured routine. But there are no set rules, no order that you have to do it in. It's just what the baby enjoys and what works for you. There are some moms who take a half an hour or more every day and do it in one session. For people who are busier, they can rub a leg here and an arm there, whenever it fits their schedule. And as the child gets older, they can help choose what they want. Maybe one day they want their back rubbed, and one day they want something else rubbed. Part of the class is teaching you ways to make it more playful and fun and to help it grow with the baby. As they get older, and they aren't going to just lay there and look at you and let you do it, you change what strokes you do. Maybe you wouldn't do the chest strokes on a two- or three-year-old like you would on a baby."

How many different massages do you teach in the class?

"It's grouped by body part. So you learn certain strokes for the legs, the arms, stomach, chest, and back and some that you do on the face. It varies, but there are 10 to 15 strokes on some body parts, like the legs. Some of the others have only about 5. Overall there are about 60 to 70 different strokes."

Are there certain oils that you recommend using?

"We use different types of cooking oils," she answered. "The main reason for that as opposed to using baby oil or lotions is that you are spreading it all over your baby. You want it to be something that you would be willing to feed them, in case they lick their hands and also because it's absorbed into the skin. So, the use of something very natural, and you can just go to the grocery store and pick up an oil. Certain oils are recommended, and we go over that in the class. The best ones are grapeseed oil and olive oil and another good one is safflower oil. If some babies have allergies to certain things [such as peanut oil], we can always find different oils that will work for them."

Infant massage can be done with newborns, says Poore. "Really, the earlier you start the better, but it can be done anywhere up to a year, when they start getting so active that it's hard to keep them still to get used to it. But anywhere from birth up to a year is a really good time to start."

Is infant massage okay for all babies?

"If a baby had severe medical issues, the parent should check with their doctor. But for the most part, it's even really good with premature babies. It helps them with weight gain and becoming healthier. It's really good as long as there is not some type of skin condition or a heart condition."

How long does it take to learn the techniques?

"It takes about a month to learn the technique, once-a-week classes." Poore offers private classes in the family home or in her own home. "Sometimes the class is held in the baby's bedroom or where they will be doing the massage. Or group classes can be organized among friends, and they can choose a location." Prices are based on how many people are in the class: $60 for the larger group class four-week session; $100 for a private four-week session. Each class lasts about an hour.

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