Have Babies Will Travel: Award Winning Educator Launches New “Sensational Baby” Program
At first you do a double take; are those real babies in that bag? But then the carrier notices your look, and smiles. “They’re dolls,” says Certified Infant Massage Instructor Kate White, “But I know they look real.”
White is the Director of the Center for Prenatal and Perinatal Programs, a center in downtown Charlottesville,VA committed to increasing prenatal and perinatal outcomes through education, therapy, research and communication. She is currently offering a new educational program for mothers, fathers, caregivers and precrawling babies. The “Sensational Baby” program was recently launched by Infant Massage USA, the US chapter of the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) in Sweden that certifies professionals in baby massage. It has over 10,000 members worldwide. Originally started by Vimala McClure, the International Association of Infant Massage’s mission is to “promote nurturing touch through training, education, and research so that babies, parents, and caregivers are loved, valued, and respected throughout the world community.” The USA chapter was started in 2005. The IAIM is the largest infant massage organization in the world, with international conferences and trainings in many countries.
“I started working with mothers and their babies in 1995,” explains White, who had a career in Africa working to improve maternal and child health before becoming a massage therapist. She returned to the United States in 1992 and entered massage school so she could have a physical skill to help pregnant women. “I wanted to help women in my own country,” she explains, after spending many years working to improve clinical and national conditions for maternity care in other countries. “Prenatal and infant massage were the first two things I studied right after completing my basic training in 1995. I have been working with pregnant and postpartum mothers, and families with newborns ever since.”
The Center is White’s second educational space dedicated to helping families with babies. She ran a healing arts center dedicated to the pre and perinatal arts in Vermont for many years before moving to central Virginia. She worked with a midwife there preparing couples for childbirth and then helping them with their babies afterwards. Her classes include information on attachment, bonding and the neuroscience of connection, along with finger plays, lullabies, and information on the developing nervous system of babies. She also offers TummyTime!™ classes that help improve babies’ experiences of being on the stomach, a position that is often uncomfortable for babies but recommended for improved development. She has spent many years now studying pre and perinatal education, and also serves as Director of Education for the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. This organization recently honored her with the Outstanding Educator Award for her contributions in creating, managing and teaching an international program that has over 180 students in 25 countries around the world.
Other organizations have recognized White for her contributions to improving the culture of birth in central Virginia. She has worked locally in the Charlottesville area since 2008, when she began a local collaborative of perinatal professionals. Representing Birth Matters, VA a statewide nonprofit that seeks to improve the culture of birth through birth circles, educational offerings and speakers, White organized large health fairs to educate couples about birth options and local services, receiving the 2012 Advocate of Year award for her efforts.
“Recently, a client asked me what my favorite thing about my work is,” says White, “I answered, taking care of pregnant women and their babies.” Her private bodywork practice, Belvedere Integrated Healing Arts, has a special program for pregnant and postpartum mothers she calls MotherCare, “because when you support a mother, you care for the world,” the brochure states. And White is very clear about that. “Mothers make the next generation,” she says, “It is one of the most important jobs on the planet. And if we support them, then we can support their babies and the support can continue into the next generation.”
For the baby massage, Sensational Baby is a 4 or 5 class series for families with precrawling babies. There are many benefits, including promotion of bonding and attachment, improving sleep, better digestion, decrease in pain, and increase of immunity. “There are so many benefits for the baby,” says White, “and for the caregiver. It is a time when mothers’ brains can change as they go into deep relationship with their baby. I spend a lot of time teaching about how babies communicate. It is primarily nonverbal. I help parents learn about their baby’s experience, how to communicate their caring through touch, relieve gas pains, and facilitate healing of anything difficult that might have happened prenatally or during birth. Loving touch is a great way to help create peaceful human beings.” One of the hallmarks of this curriculum is teaching how to ask permission of your baby to complete massages, acknowledging that babies have preference in relationship with their caregivers.
White’s expertise includes bodywork to help with breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding is a full body experience for a baby,” she explains, “Many times, breastfeeding can feel uncomfortable for mom and baby. Bodywork can help sort that out.” Her training includes many years of craniosacral therapy, a very light form of bodywork that helps decompress key areas of a baby’s body to improve nervous system function. “Key nerves can get compressed that play a role in nervous system regulation. The bodywork I offer helps with reflux, gas, pain in the neck and shoulders, as well as hips. It is more than any one therapy,” White explains. “It is a mixture of manual therapy, pacing, tempo and communication with the baby. Parents learn a lot in the sessions with me. And I love helping them.”
So if you see a woman walking around Charlottesville with a bag that looks like it is filled with babies, don’t be alarmed. It is just White off to teach another class or do home visit to help a family learn more about their baby. More information about infant massage can be found on the IAIM website, http://www.infantmassageusa.org/.