If your Preemie was in the NICU for any time at all, it’s a good chance that they had their foot pricked frequently in order to check their vitals and/or blood gas levels (especially if they are on any type of oxygen support or had an infection recently). They are a necessary and routine part of newborn care that preterm and even full term babies receive, but preterm infants will obviously participate in these heel sticks more often.
Although the pricks are tiny to us adults, they are HUGE for our little ones in the NICU. When Kylo came off of the ventilator and we could hear his voice, he never hesitated to let us know how much he HATED those heel sticks (and who knew a baby with CLD could wail so loud??😩). I mean who likes getting stuck with needles at the doctor anyway?
There is a really amazing book I love called "The Body Keeps Score" by Bessel van der Kolk and in it he discusses how the trauma and pain that we feel on the outside has a sneaky way of staying with our bodies if we don't take action to heal it, physically or mentally. I read this book while in the NICU with Kylo because I was trying to understand and find healing for the trauma I had/was facing in my life. But when Kylo came home 6 months after he was born at 24 weeks, this book really got me thinking about how I can help him heal from his traumatic birth and NICU experience, so that it doesn't stay trapped in his body and manifest as an illness later.
I already knew that massage therapy is one great way to heal and treat trauma caused by physical injury in the body from my past work with active duty veterans and I thought it would be a great way to bond with Kylo, so I made it my new hobby to try massages with him as soon as he was home, specifically targeting his little feet that were pricked every day, multiple times a day, for 180 days.
At first, he was very timid about me messing with his feet. I would be too! But I think once he realized the pricks weren't coming and it was just Mommy smiling at him and touching his soft skin, he let his guard down and 3 years later, Kylo LOVES foot massages! Now, after bath time, he'll put his feet up without my cue. How amazing is that?
To do some fun and relaxing massages with your little one, all you need is your hands and something to moisturize their skin! We love using pure shea or cocoa butter that we just order from Etsy. When Kylo first came home, we used coconut oil because studies like this one (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844909/) show that oils like coconut oil helped enhance weight gain and that was HUGE for us. As a bonus, doing foot massages with your baby also helps with colic and it helps induce sleep (you can't beat that!)
You don't need to be an expert masseuse to do this either. I surely am not! All you need is good energy for your baby. They are so excited to bond with you and you're doing something very special for them by trying to help lessen their pain and trauma. Trust me, they'll appreciate you so much for this later!
Thanks for reading, Friends! Take care until next time 💜
RELEVANT ARTICLES FOR MASSAGE THERAPY AND NEWBORNS
I am a scholar at heart, so I always love reading scientific articles and research papers about different topics, so I will always try to link some articles relevant to whatever topic we're discussing! Check out these related to today's topic:
Culturally Based Practice in Neonatal Procedural Pain Management: A Mini Review (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7494950/)
Preterm Infant Massage Therapy Research: A Review (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844909/)
Massage therapy as a non-pharmacological analgesia for procedural pain in neonates: A scoping review (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965229921000765)
Touch, holding and massage for your premature baby in the NICU (https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/premature-babies/connecting-communicating/touch-massage-in-the-nicu)