Complimentary Therapies

I believe in medical science. My baby would not be here with out it. However, I have learned a healthy respect for complimentary therapies since I became a preemie parent. This is how we discovered the complimentary therapies that were right for Charlie. 

Infant Massage

Following Charlie’s birth, we were unable to touch her. She would desat and have apnea and/or bradycardia spells during hands on care. For several weeks in the beginning, we rarely held her due to the stress it induced. Charlie lasted seven minutes the first time I tried kangaroo care. I was incredibly frustrated and saddened. I read and was told how beneficial it was for her so I kept at it.

A couple of weeks later, Charlie lasted twenty minutes before she had to be returned to the isolette. When the nurse removed her from my chest, she let out a scream (it sounded more like a kitten’s meow) and gestured towards me. It was the encouragement I needed to continue.

After a few more attempts, Charlie started rooting. Her rooting reflex became so intense that she needed a pacifier to get settled. Eventually, her tolerance increased. By her last month, there were days that we would kangaroo as many as eight hours.

The PT/OT department from the hospital spoke to me about taking the infant massage class they offered. Before Charlie, I was skeptical of alternative therapies. The favorable kangaroo experience had opened me up to the idea of infant massage.

I took the class. Once Charlie was finally discharged, I tried incorporating infant massage. Like the kangaroo care, I started small. Eventually, Charlie started to anticipate the massage and readily offered up her leg (the starting point).

The massage therapy helped Charlie tolerate touch better, softened some of her stiffness, the colic routine aided her motility, and massage became another way to soothe her.

Music Therapy

Charlie has always been responsive to sound. The first six months that she was home from the NICU, she slept peacefully as long as jazz was playing. She had a tough time transitioning to sleep without it. The first toy she had shown interest in was a small bear with a chime.

After RSV season last year, she attended her first story time. During the heavy sensory play, musical instruments were handed out to the babies. Charlie opened up enthusiastically to the group music.

Shortly after that observation, I enrolled Charlie in music therapy. Charlie enjoys music therapy quite a bit. It may help with her sensory issues and her speech delay (Charlie loves “singing”). Certainly, it has helped with her PT and OT.

Sometimes she struggles to grasp a skill in PT or OT. But, she will pick it up quite easily in music therapy. For example, the OT tried many times to teach Charlie to bang blocks together. At music therapy, sound was incorporated to the skill and she learned it very quickly. With issues such as these, it is like seeing a light bulb go on over Charlie’s head.

While I feel Charlie benefits greatly from these complimentary therapies, they may not be right for every baby. The main consideration I have when trying something new is whether or not Charlie will enjoy the endeavor. After everything that she has been through, it is important to me that therapy is a pleasant experience for her. I also look for ideas of how to use Charlie affinities and proficiencies to work on the skills that she is struggling with.

We were very fortunate to find a couple of complementary therapies that work well for Charlie.

Charlie climbed on the drum in music therapy.

Charlie climbed on the drum in music therapy.


About Rebecca Wood

In May 2012, my pregnancy ended three and a half months early due to severe early onset preeclampsia. This is my collection of thoughts and media. It is an attempt to document and discuss our experience of navigating the post NICU world. View all posts by Rebecca Wood

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