Regina Greenwood turns down the instrumental music and turns up the heat in her Vancouver home.
In the empty dining room, Greenwood situates herself on a yoga pillow on the floor. She places a baby doll in her lap. Across from Greenwood, Kelly Griffith takes a seat on another pillow. She lays her son, 4-month-old Brennon Griffith, on a yoga mat between the two women.
Greenwood guides Griffith through a couple of deep, relaxation breaths.
“They feel you. They feel your energy,” Greenwood says. “If you don’t relax, they won’t relax.”
“With your touch, you can relax your baby and yourself,” she adds.
Griffith rubs a small amount of fragrance-free oil in her hands and reaches for Brennon’s leg. Under Greenwood’s guidance, Griffith moves through about half a dozen strokes, rubbing Brennon’s thighs, calves, ankles, feet and toes.
Brennon sucks on his fingers and coos as his mother massages his right leg, then his left.
“I think he enjoyed it,” Griffith said after the nearly hourlong class. “He usually hates his feet touched, and he did pretty good.”
For the last two years, Greenwood has taught parents how to use their touch to comfort and bond with their infants through her business Genetic Bond. Greenwood is an infant massage instructor and teaches the curriculum developed by the International Association of Infant Massage.
Greenwood taught private lessons and group classes out of her Redmond studio up until her family moved to Vancouver in April. Now, she’s primarily teaching in-home, one-on-one lessons while looking for a new studio space.
Greenwood first learned the massage techniques out of a desire to connect with her son, Lain, who is now 2 years old.
“I saw how effective this method was on the baby,” she said. “Massage can heal and connect.”
She also discovered a desire to help other parents to bond with and soothe babies experiencing sleep issues, colic and stress.
“Touch is the first sense that develops in babies,” Greenwood said. “It’s important to communicate and bond through massage.”
Research has shown infant massage can have various health benefits, including helping a baby to relax and sleep, reduce crying, improve bonding with parents and affect hormones that control stress, according to the Mayo Clinic. A research review by the National Institutes of Health also concluded that infant massage promotes weight gain in premature babies.
Greenwood most often sees parents who are frustrated by their babies’ lack of sleep or difficulty falling asleep.
“Massage can help, for sure,” she said.
Greenwood teaches in a series of four sessions. Each session is about an hour long and covers massage strokes for different areas of the body, including legs, feet, belly, chest, back, arms, hands and face. Babies’ heads are not massaged because of their soft spots.
Greenwood demonstrates all of the strokes on a baby doll and talks parents through the appropriate pressure and rhythms. At the final session, she provides handouts with all of the techniques so parents can continue to practice infant massage at home.
“It’s a safe program,” Greenwood said. “It’s nothing complicated.”
Kelly Griffith of Vancouver had heard of infant massage but never tried it. The mother of four decided to give it a try with Brennon after hearing about Greenwood’s classes.
“I just heard about the bonding experience,” Griffith said. “He’s my last baby. I just want to take it all in.”