A common activity for new parents to bond with their child is being adapted at our children’s hospice for infants with complex conditions.
Little Havens in Thundersley has introduced infant massage sessions to support parents whose children have additional medical needs. They may have already been through invasive procedures, therefore making the association of the sense of touch an upsetting or traumatic experience.
Infant massage is a holistic therapy for young babies and their families, involving gentle, rhythmic stroking of the child in a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Instructor Sophie Kenworthy is a paediatric nurse and trained infant massage instructor, and has been delivering the classes online and in person at the hospice in small groups.
Sophie says, “Many babies and toddlers who have complex needs have already had many invasive procedures, such as lots of heel prick blood tests. Therefore we often find that body part being touched alerts a sense of danger to them, so through infant massage we try to build that confidence back.”
The physical benefits for a child include helping to relieve any tension in the body, support blood flow and calm breathing. It also can help with a child’s digestive issues such as colic and constipation offering a natural alternative to medication.
There is also an important aspect to the group sessions too. Sophie explains, “Lots of children’s groups are not suitable for children with complex needs. Often other families at baby groups are not in similar situations so we’ve found sometimes they actually leave families feeling more isolated.
“Therefore our baby massage group at Little Havens is a safe space to meet other families whose children also have complex conditions. The friendships formed in these groups can be invaluable in helping families feel they are not alone and help them build their own support network.”
When a young child is referred for hospice care many families can be left feeling apprehensive so Little Havens hope a holistic support group like baby massage is a gentle introduction to what hospice care is and how Little Havens can support their family.
Emma Moore is mother to Mason, who is 20 months old. He was born with non-ketotic hyperglycemia, a rare metabolic disorder caused by a defect in the enzyme system.
Emma says, “Most baby massage classes in the community assume that all babies are happy being touched and don’t take into consideration their health needs. Sophie had a chat with us first to go through all Mason’s needs, especially his gut health and showed us techniques to help relieve discomfort. We do sensory activities at the end of the sessions too.
“We’ve met other families at Little Havens who are in very similar situations and who understand what we’re going through.”
Sophie continues, “Our infant massage group has given the Care Team at the hospice the opportunity to support families from the very beginning of the child’s life in a positive way.
“On the Perinatal Palliative Care Pathway the second stage is ongoing care which baby massage would support. This type of holistic care is nationally recognised, and when implemented into a hospice’s services it supports the good quality care that’s provided to families whose children have incurable conditions.”
This therapy is only available to infants under the care of Little Havens, and is completely free to each family because of the generosity of local people making donations and taking part in fundraising events.