The first time we met Carolynn, I was still on my parental leave, and Becca and I were taking Charlee to her first mummy group.
8 mums, 8 babies, and 1 dad (yours truly) sat around in a circle in the basement of one of the neighbourhoods oldest churches, and Carolynn got right into it.
She welcomed us all to the class, introduced what the next 12 weeks was going to look like, and then whipped out her ukulele and gave a playfully gentle disclaimer that while she had a masters degree, it did not imply any special musical talents.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend a couple classes before heading back to work, and I know that Becca and Charlee had a blast. It’s often through these types of meet-ups that parents are able to meet other parents with similarly aged babies, and foster new friendships.
With us, we were able to connect with Carolynn as well, and had the pleasure of having her over the other day to teach me about infant massage, and the bonding experience it can have for fathers.
Carolynn wrote a fascinating white paper that is perfectly in line with the material that dad’s are so often seeking; new opportunities to bond with their infants.
During that delicate time before babies can vocalize their feelings, it is a constant struggle to connect with our kids the same way mum’s naturally can.
As Carolynn writes, “fathers may feel dissatisfied with their ability to form a close attachment with their infants in the early postpartum period, which, in turn, may increase their parent-related stress.”
Their study sought to align infant massage between a father and their child and the subsequent reduction in stress and increase in bonding.
I implore you to read the white paper on Carolynn’s site; it is a fascinating study and the outcomes offer a fundamental opportunity that no father should miss.
Carolynn’s research did not stop there. She in turn is a certified infant massage instructor, and offers both group and individual classes on baby massage.
As determined in her paper, there are numerous benefits to massage, both for the baby and the parent themselves! These benefits include:
Benefits for baby
• Promote longer and deeper sleeping patterns
• Relieve symptoms of “colic” or gassy periods
• Improve cardiac and respiratory output
• Help baby develop sense of self
Benefits for parents/caregivers
• Enhance and facilitate parent/child relationships
• Increase confidence and sensitivity as you learn to read and respond to your babies’ cues
• Provide special, focused time together
• Decrease stress
The first thing Carolynn did when she came over, after settling down and giving Party (our dog) some attention, was to pull out the ukulele and sing a few tunes for Charlee.
Right off the bat, Charlee was beside herself! The power of song is so evident, and it put a huge smile on Charlee’s face as she remembered the music from a few months back.
Becca had helped me out and set up a calm space upstairs to go through the tutorial, so we headed up and got settled.
Carolynn reiterated that she wasn’t there to massage Charlee, but rather to guide me through the process. She brought out a doll for demonstration purposes, and we sat across from each other as I got Charlee prepped.
One of the very first things Carolynn guided me on doing, was seeking permission from Charlee before massaging her. I thought it was such an odd premise, but when she explained that it’s one of the first opportunities to teach Charlee about boundaries, and consent, I was all for it.
Carolynn walked me through the stages of several massage techniques, starting from Charlee’s legs and moving up to her head. Every move was well thought out, methodical, and explained in detail. My favourite part, was that every massaging move was accompanied by a little song to sing through the motions.
Charlee was a gem and enjoyed the whole process immensely. I was taught how the direction of the massage can be a huge influence on relaxation versus stimulation, so it was important to not overdo it on such a tiny person.
The days following our session with Carolynn, I continue doing to the techniques she taught me, and Charlee is growing more and more comfortable with it. We’ll usually have ‘leg days’ for a few in a row, followed by arms and maybe face. Charlee has always been brought up with massage in her routine, but now having some technique to accompany it makes me more confident, and Charlee even more receptive.
As new dads, we’re often searching for things that we can implement that will help us feel more involved in the child raising process, and give us that opportunity to bond with our little ones. I was grateful to have met Carolynn and been giving a lesson on infant massage, and I whole heartedly recommend it to all the dads out there.
A little about Carolynn, in her own words, from her website:
Ancient wisdom, modern parenting is a tagline I created to describe my parenting and teaching philosophy. There has been a recent surge of interest and research in parenting practices of long, long ago. Swaddling, infant massage and breastfeeding are a few of these practices that are high on the modern parent’s radar. My philosophy honours thousands of years of evolutionary wisdom, but also values the needs and realities of 21st century families.
My interest in parenting really began as an interest in infant development. I studied child health at Brock University and graduated with an honours B.A. I became a certified Child life specialist through a post graduate program at McMaster University. I practiced Child Life for many years at both Sickkids and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab. I really enjoyed helping children and teen’s navigate and gain mastery over their healthcare experience. But my smallest clients and their parents troubled me. I wasn’t sure how to truly help them until I became certified as an infant massage instructor. The benefits of this instruction went well beyond the baby, and perhaps helped the parents the most, by empowering them when they feel most vulnerable, especially when their baby wont stop crying or has colic. A desire to help more parents in this effective and powerful way led me again to further graduate education. I completed a Masters of Arts degree from Brock University where I was able to study some important questions about infant massage and parenting. I have attached a PDF at the bottom of this page describing my most relevant work with parents and their babies. My greatest experience of all however, has been the birth of my own beautiful children. They teach me everyday that each child, family and parent is unique and they deserve to be treated that way.