Detroit moms learn to promote healthy infant development

April 21st, 2010
Luz Zúñiga, a counselor with Southwest Counseling Solutions, teaches the hands-on class. Mothers learn techniques of touch relaxation. (Luz demonstrated those techniques on a doll.) They also learn about infant and child development.

Myra Vargas and her husband struggled with their newborn, Diego. “He wouldn’t sleep or eat like he should, and he cried all the time,” Myra says. Myra felt frustrated and at a loss about what to do. She heard that infant massage could help and decided to enroll in the free class. 

The class is part of the Infant Mental Health program offered by Southwest Counseling Solutions. It meets one a week at the Campbell Library in southwest Detroit. The class is small, and so the mothers receive individual attention from the instructor, Luz Zúñiga. 

Luz is a specialist with Southwest Counseling. She has been working in the field of infant mental health for ten years and in the area of children and family counseling for longer. 

“The benefits of infant massage are many and are proven by research,” Luz says. “It enhances the bond between mother and baby, helps both mother and baby to relax, improves the baby’s sleeping and eating habits, and facilitates the baby’s neurological development.” 

Myra has been using the massage techniques she learned in class whenever she puts Diego to sleep. As a result, Diego now sleeps through the night, is more alert during the day, has a healthy appetite, and is well behaved. These changes have increased Myra’s own confidence as a mother to help her child succeed, she says. 

At the infant massage class, Luz and the mothers discuss child development, time-management (especially when the mother has more than one child), additional resources in the community, and other child-rearing issues. The mothers come to understand that early learning begins at birth. Mothers are encouraged to talk to their babies and interact in ways that are both fun and educational. 

The infant massage classes stem from a collaboration between Southwest Counseling and Readers for Leaders, which is run by Susan Yeghissian. 

The Infant Mental Health program serves about 50 families a year. In addition to the infant massage class, the program offers home visits in which mothers receive intensive instruction about healthy infant development. 

To learn more about the program and eligibility, call 313.963.2266 or email Luz at lzuniga@swsol.org.

 

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