Supporting fathering through infant massage
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Developing a strong relationship is essential for optimal child development and it is possible for fathers to fully participate in developing this close bond. Men often develop this relationship through interactive play which usually occurs later in their child's development. As a result, fathers often feel dissatisfied with their ability to form a close attachment in the early post-partum period, which in turn may increase their stress level. However, men can be prepared for the transition to fatherhood if they develop the knowledge and skill necessary to create positive relationships with their infants. Infant massage appears to be a viable option for teaching fathers care-giving sensitivity. To build on the notion of teaching fathers attachment system behaviour in early infancy, a quasi-experimental, mixed methods study was employed. Twenty-four infant-father dyads were recruited for the study. The fathers were asked to fill out the Parent Stress Index and a facial cues rating scale at two times, one month apart. The experimental group also participated in an infant massage intervention taught by a Certified Infant Massage Instructor of the International Association of Infant Massage. A repeated measures MANOVA revealed infant massage decreased paternal stress. Qualitatively, the fathers provided rich descriptions of their experience in the baby massage class which provided useful insight into the efficacy of the intervention. Overall, the fathers enjoyed the experience but did not necessarily see the direct benefit of the intervention on their relationship. Recommendations for pre and postnatal education for fathers are made.