Baby Everett kept reaching for the massage oil.
In a living room in Summit Cove on a Tuesday morning in May, the 15-month-old baby’s mother received her first formal lesson in infant massage from instructor Amber Sakosky.
“Make sure your grip with him is more a firm touch than a tickle touch,” Sakosky said, using a doll to show mom Kelsey Buckingham the different strokes and techniques.
Sakosky, 33, recently started offering infant massage education and instruction to parents on the Western Slope.
“People always said I had a gift with little ones,” she said.
Buckingham, 28, said afterward that Everett, who rarely sits still these days, seemed to enjoy the experience.
“He relaxed right away. That’s what was really neat,” she said. “It was good for me, too, because who doesn’t want to touch their baby?”
Sakosky promotes her business to all parents and babies and says health benefits include reducing stress, increasing brain development and improving digestion and circulation. She emphasizes that infant massage increases bonding between parent and child.
High Country Healthcare includes information about infant massage in its CenteringPregnancy program, which started offering care and education in a group setting for expecting and new mothers.
“It’s a safe alternative to medication,” said local pediatrician Dr. Adam Loomis. “I think it’s good way to calm the babies down.”
He hasn’t seen evidence supporting significant benefits, he said, but he hasn’t done much research on infant massage. He said a few mothers have mentioned taking their babies to massage therapists to him.
Some people “do whatever their doctor says, and that doesn’t always work,” Sakosky said. She wants to provide another option for parents.
“I wanted to bring something different and unique to this community that hopefully people would love,” she said.
She was drawn to infant massage because she couldn’t find any negatives associated with it, she said, and she liked that it’s educational and holistic.
The Silverthorne resident first moved to Summit County in 2006 and worked in special education and substitute teaching as well as for Early Head Start and Head Start.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Sakosky majored in human development and family studies and was first introduced to the concept of infant massage by her college professors.
In early 2013, she spent about three months researching the practice, and then that April, she started the process of becoming a certified instructor through Infant Massage USA.
The trainer she found to certify her in Colorado, Deanna Elliott, said she has certified thousands of instructors since 1982 when she became the organization’s first trainer. Elliot was trained by the American woman who brought infant massage as a practice to the U.S. in the 1970s after seeing it in India and incorporating Swedish massage and principals of reflexology and yoga.
Of all the people Elliot has trained to become instructors, she said, Sakosky stood out because of her enthusiasm.
“She was really fired up about it,” Elliot said.
Sakosky completed her training in two months and said she is happy her certification is valid internationally, so she can teach infant massage while traveling abroad.
Now she often approaches pregnant women and parents pushing kids in strollers.
“I’m just really passionate about it,” she said. “I just want to tell them all about it.”
Massage therapist Laurel Rivera, who owns Radiant Mountain Massage and specializes in mothers and babies, said she recommends Sakosky and infant massage to her clients.
“It’s really gentle and really noninvasive,” said Rivera, 32.
The earlier the better, Sakosky says, adding that massage is especially good for premature babies.
She dreams of partnering with others in the community to open a wellness center for women in Summit that offers doula services and prenatal and postpartum holistic therapies like massage and yoga. Some of her first clients are still using the techniques she taught them on their babies.
“It’s nice to see that they are continuing it,” she said, and that “they personally believe in it and they see the effects it has on their child.”
Ginger Morse, a 36-year-old bilingual teacher at Dillon Valley Elementary from Silverthorne, said she heard of Sakosky through word of mouth.
She was unfamiliar with the practice of infant massage but decided to try it with her baby, then 4 months old, and another mother and her baby. They did six sessions and she called the instruction “a big eye opener.”
“It’s not giving your baby to somebody else so they can fix them. It’s not like that,” she said. “She was really fantastic.”
Morse said Sakosky was knowledgeable, gave her information to read later and shared case studies about other families.
“It’s really powerful to one, be enabled as a parent, and two, to get into this routine of connection with your child,” she said.
She was a little skeptical at first, she said, but then she noticed how massage improved her baby’s sleep.
“The days I would do the massage with him he would actually take good naps,” she said. She described the practice as “another tool to have in your toolkit of parenting, and God knows we need them.”
To contact Sakosky, call 570-561-4559 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.