infant care

The Magic of Infant Massage

In honor of our upcoming Infant Massage series at Doulas of Orange County, our wonderful instructor Kathleen Thomas-Sarles is sharing more about the magic this healing and bonding activity provides. Kathie provided a lovely hands-on demo at our New Mama Cafe this week and we weren't surprised to hear that everyone LOVED it! Learn more about Kathie and her expertise in Infant Massage on her website

According to Infant Massage USA, there are many benefits to regular infant massage:

1. Stimulation: Skin sensitivity (touch) is the earliest developed function which is most crucial for all the sensory systems, for muscle development, and overall health.

2. Relaxation: Massage helps balance our autonomic nervous system. Massage helps to relieve tension built up from all the stimulation in our baby’s environment. It can help your baby sleep better: (longer and deeper sleep) and helps with self-regulation and self-soothing.

3. Relief of Physical Discomfort: such as gas and colic, constipation, muscular tension or stiffness and sensitivity to touch or disorganization of the nervous system.

 4. Interaction: Touch is one of the most critical elements to the bonding process.  Learn your baby’s cues and build trust.


Babies are touchable, squeezable, kissable and overall intoxicating! Our babies have the power to make us touch, hold, and care for them!  That touch-communication begins at birth or even before, (pregnant moms are always rubbing their bellies), and continues as the baby grows and develops. The question is often asked, “Why should parents learn infant massage when they touch their babies often throughout the day anyway?”  

Infant massage USA uses a systematic method of touch that incorporates two types of strokes: Indian and Swedish, and combines that with a heightened awareness of the cues our babies give us. Observation and “being present” with our baby is the cornerstone of this process.   Massage begins with a question directed to our baby,” Would you like a massage?”, and continues with non-verbal communication that builds trust between the two participants. We never massage a crying baby, we do however, respond to that cry with another method of touch and love.  

There are many benefits to infant massage, but the one that stands out as crucial is the deep bonding that occurs through this one-on-one time. Finding the time in your day when you and your baby are ready for this interaction and setting aside all other concerns, allows you and your baby to get to know each other more completely. When touch is offered lovingly and respectfully it is most often accepted. As parents we gradually learn when our baby is not ready for this touch and note the cues. This skill of reading cues is beneficial throughout our child’s life, as children do not always use their words to tell us what they want.

“Infants communicate through their bodies. When you engage an infant in a massage, you begin to listen to the infant: you listen to sounds, you watch movements, you listen with your eyes, your ears and your heart. “Infant massage, or touch communication nurtures the most important relationship the child will ever have: the relationship between the parent and infant”. Elaine Fogel Schnieder, Ph.D

Vimala McClure founder of Infant Massage USA tells us,”Touch is the first sense to form in-utero and the last to leave us in death.  It is the only sense we can’t live without.” Infant massage when incorporated into your daily schedule, has the added benefits of better sleep, better digestion, muscle and brain development and increased self -soothing ability of your baby.  Massage gives parents more confidence due to their successful response to their baby’s needs, and the baby learns to trust that their needs will be met.  Both parent and child benefit from the massage not only in the moment, but for a lifetime of communication. Infant massage creates a space where baby and parent come together to communicate through touch and learn the wonders of each other.


Kathie's 4-week series launches Sunday, September 3rd at at 10:30am in Irvine. These hour and a half sessions are held at our baby-friendly office. Each class will include guided understanding and modeling of strokes, education regarding temperament, relationship, development, behavioral states and touch as a first communication. You will learn how to create a sense of trust, respect and confidence for you and your baby and maximize your bonding time. This class is great for moms, dads, and grandparents! 

Check out Kathie's Intro to Infant Massage session on Sunday, August 27th at 10:30 or join us for  New Mama Cafe on Tuesday, September 5th at 11:30am to learn more. This info session will provide you with everything you need to know to sign up for the 4-week series and includes a hands-on demo! Registration is required. 

Read more about this new series and instructions on how to register on our events page. For questions, please email Kathie directly at ktsarles@gmail.com

Lessons on Compassion from "Call the Midwife"

There's nothing like a good Netflix binge to help calm the mind and reset the body for the week ahead. I've had a particularly rough week emotionally, so when Sunday rolled around with it's rainy OC weather and nothing on my to-do list, I figured what better time to catch up on "Call the Midwife!"

For those that are unfamiliar, "Call the Midwife" is a PBS show all about midwifery care in the 1950s and 60s. It is a beautiful show that portrays the dramatic ups and downs of midwifery, birth, life, and death in the impoverished East End of London. Each episode is guaranteed to tug at the heart strings. 

In episode two of the fifth season, there is an interesting commentary on breastfeeding vs. formula feeding with a beautiful lesson on listening to an individual mothers needs and desires.

Without going into too much detail (because really, if you aren't watching this show yet, you should!!) one of the midwives is extremely vocal of her disapproval of formula feeding. Keep in mind that formula was a new phenomenon in the 1960s and that some people could barely afford to put food on the table. Sister Evangelina, the notoriously vocal midwife touts the benefits of breast milk as being the perfect food for baby and bonus, it's free! 

As a Birth & Postpartum Doula, I of course, know her views to be valid and correct from a logical standpoint, but I cringed at the words she used and the attitude she portrayed, essentially poo-pooing anyone who dared challenge her expertise and views. 

Fast forward to a mom struggling to breastfeed and this same midwife (while encouraging her to keep trying), dismisses her fears and the pain breastfeeding was causing her. It took bleeding nipples and a full emotional breakdown for the midwife to finally admit that she was wrong and that formula was NOT, in fact, evil. 

A Morning with Your Postpartum Doula

This is the week you became parents, that you became a family. After welcoming your little one, you and your baby had two days of round the clock care from your loving nurses.  The food may have been sub par, but the sleep… oh the sleep was wonderful.  

Then comes the day… the day you are discharged. The joy surges through you. You’re going home with your newborn! In the car ride home you ask each other “Did they really just let us leave?” The drive is surreal as you look back at your baby, asleep in the car seat.

“I got this!”, you say to yourself.  You know you will be incredible parents. You bought the best gear, signed up for the baby care basics class and mastered the diaper change.  Yes, you got this.

That night was simultaneously the best and most challenging night you can recall. The love for your baby was overflowing, yet you felt like you were up all - night - long. Between nursing, countless diapers, burping, rocking and holding this tiny new creature; you wake up utterly exhausted. 

You sit up in bed to nurse for what feels like the 100th time. Your postpartum haze subsides for a moment as you remember: the Postpartum Doula is coming today!!! You relax as you realize that support and reassurance is on the way.