DENNIS ODA / DODA!@STARBULLETIN.COM
Piilani Wright massages her 16-month-old daugher, Jada Wright during a "Baby and Me" class at Moku Ola Hawaiian Healing Center.
Ahhh, baby! That massage feels good
Massaging can create a calming effect on the little ones and it also helps them sleep better
CONNIE Soga-Moore's daughter is reaching the "terrible 2" stage, but Soga-Moore is taking steps to ease any impending tantrums.
She began taking baby massage classes at Moku Ola Hawaiian Healing Center last month. "I want to do whatever I can to create a calming effect," she said.
INFANT MASSAGE CLASSES
» Moku Ola Hawaiian Healing Center: New session begins Oct. 18, with classes from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesdays. Cost is $60 for four classes. Call 394-6658 or visit www.mokuolahawaii.com.
» Purple Yoga Hawaii: 10 to 11:30 a.m. Fridays, Oct. 20 to Nov. 17, for babies 1 to 6 months old. Cost is $75. Call 944-8585 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
» Queen's Medical Center: Classes offered 10 to 11 a.m. Saturdays and is designed for babies ages 2 to 6 months old. The next class starts on Jan. 13. Cost for a four-week session is $65 for two adults and one baby; $10 more for additional family participants. Visit www.queens.org or call 537-7117.
Owners Aoi and Pi'ilani Wright, who offer an array of lomilomi and spa treatments, began extending their services to moms and babies last month. "Massage relieves colic, can soothe toothaches and sore stomachs and help babies when they feel uncomfortable or are fussy and can't get to sleep," Pi'ilani said.
Massage releases both oxytocin and endorphins that can assist in relieving discomfort, she said.
Baby massage is gaining recognition among health care professionals. "People are becoming more aware -- alternative care has been on the media forefront for some time now," said Donna Ready, wellness coordinator at Queen's Medical Center.
Ready has coordinated baby massage classes a few years, but recently was able to experience them firsthand with her 4-month-old son. "He really enjoyed the class, especially the leg and foot massage, that was his favorite," she said. "He would go in all excited and would really mellow out. It's now a part of his 'getting to bed' nighttime ritual."
Many parents find that their babies sleep better if massage is incorporated into the bedtime routine, said Tracy Carlson, certified infant massage instructor at Queen's.
Mothers, fathers and even grandparents attend Carlson's classes. In most cases, she said, the moms have been meeting the babies' basic needs, for example through breastfeeding. Through massage, dads have an opportunity to also contribute something special.
"By the end of the class, fathers learn new things about their babies," she said.
"I tell them to make eye contact and watch for a reaction -- it opens their awareness and they are able to read physical expression. Babies give really strong cues. Parents can tell what calms them and what they like better, what feels good to them."
Relaxation and pain relief are not the only benefits. Infants learn that touch is a form of expression, Pi'ilani explained. Baby massage aids growth, increases oxygen and the flow of nutrients, increases circulation, increases the baby's body awareness, can enhance moods and helps tone muscles.
As if to illustrate Pi'ilani's point, baby Kaylee Marie Liberato fell asleep as Aoi gave her a lomilomi foot rub.
Aoi, who worked as a pediatric nurse at Kapiolani Children's Hospital for 10 years before opening the healing center in 2005, said setting aside a half hour of bonding time a day helps create periods of relaxation.
Caregivers need to be calm themselves to achieve results, maintaining a relaxed voice tone and remaining still, even if a youngster is fidgeting, Aoi said. "If you come to a baby and you are not calm, they will sense that."
"It's more of a bonding thing -- you don't want to force anything. It's a test of patience and openness," Pi'ilani added. "Babies don't always cooperate."
Plain oils such as sunflower oil or baby lotion may be used during a massage, or Pi'ilani suggests lavender as a safe choice for those seeking aromatherapy.
Start slowly and work the baby into a state of relaxation, she explained. "One-on-one, the baby will tend to relax a little more." She suggests practicing massaging the arms and legs every day. "The head area is also pretty simple, and they don't need to be lying down."
DENNIS ODA / DODA!@STARBULLETIN.COM
Baby massage increases oxygen and the flow of nutrients, helps with circulation, and can enhance moods and tone muscles.
Pi'ilani's 16-month-old daughter, Jada Wright, lay down patiently for her massage, receiving the benefits for more than 15 minutes. "Sometimes I massage my daughter for up to one hour," Pi'ilani said.
During their first class, parents are introduced to the importance of lomilomi and taught simple techniques for soothing and bonding with their baby. They can practice the techniques at home and return each week with questions. By the end of four weeks, they will learn techniques to help a colicky infant.
Bryan Buck and Laura Brough are taking classes with their 1-year-old daughter. Brough is hoping that the child will sleep better through the night, "not tossing and turning."
They signed up for the classes to ensure they are doing it properly. "We wanted to learn the appropriate pressure," she said. "Maybe there are certain areas we are not supposed to rub."
She added, "I like massage, so why wouldn't my baby?"