Launched in the United Kingdom in 2006, the Baby Sensory program is designed to stimulate the senses and enhance the development of babies from birth—with an emphasis on touch, including massage. Now, Baby Sensory has more than 600 franchise locations in the U.K., and the program is beginning to spread to other countries as well. According to the Baby Sensory website, the company currently has three franchises in the U.S., located in Houston, Texas; Cupertino, California; and Pembroke Pines, Florida.
“My permanent location opened its doors in June 2012, and I was the second franchisee operating in the United States,” said Toni Hoppes, who runs the Baby Sensory program in Houston, Texas. “When I was pregnant with my daughter, I wanted to find a program like Baby Sensory that we could attend, but was unable to find something that incorporates so much of the vital development stages that are needed during the first year of life. After my search came up empty, I was introduced to Baby Sensory and found so high a need for this amazing program in my area.”
According to Hoppes, who trained with Baby Sensory founder Lin Day, each class includes many elements of touch, and parents are taught and encouraged to massage their babies to promote bonding, induce relaxation, encourage sleep and relieve gas pains, among other benefits. These and other positive effects of infant massage have been supported by the findings of research studies such as “Infant Massage” (The Journal of Perinatal Education, 1994) and “Preterm infants show reduced stress behaviors and activity after 5 days of massage therapy” (Infant Behavior & Development, 2007).
“The class leaders give a brief explanation to the parents before any massage activities, and we must go through Baby Sensory training to run classes,” Hoppes said. “We do not rely on the help of a massage therapist to assist in the classes, although some class leaders might be open to more instruction from a reliable therapist.”
Leading a Baby Sensory session or becoming a franchisee does not require massage training, but having experience as a professional massage therapist could help a potential class leader or franchisee stand out among other applicants.
“In the United Kingdom, we have taken on a small number of qualified baby massage instructors and trained them to run our program in parallel to their baby massage activities,” said Ian Sharland, CEO of Baby Sensory. “When our franchisees are recruiting class leaders, they may well be interested in candidates who have baby massage experience, but this would be a local decision.”
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