LE REVARD: I have been in my mountain chalet for two weeks now, where I have a panoramic view of the snow capped Alps and Mt. Blanc. At 1,500 meters, the mornings are crisp and the air is brand new; the locals tell me it is manufactured here overnight.
At the top of my road is a viewing point and a restaurant where cyclists and day trippers from the valley congregate to look across the forests of fur trees at the rousing mountains and hold their breath as Para-gliders jump from the precipice and hang high above France’s largest lake in the valley below.
Between baby Max’s feeds, who incidentally is now on solids, his naps and walks around this ski village that sits patiently waiting for the return of the season, are all types of unusual adventures.
The mountains I am told are full of the Dahut, a mythical creature with two legs shorter than the others so it can run round the mountains unhindered.
There are the waddling milking cows that you can follow through the forest to the dairy and watch as the machines milk them and you can buy delicious organic homemade cheeses direct from the farmer.
Picnics by mountain streams, winery visits and Max being caught in rain storms in an open top buggy are all part of mountain life, which starts at sunrise and ends with a cheeky Bordeaux and an open fire. In between all of this, baby Max has discovered the massage.
Strange things up in them there hills, let me tell you.
I was familiar with Swedish massage and Thai massage. There is Tantric massage and aromatherapy, but baby massage was something new for me, baby Max and his mother.
There are 78 infant massage practitioners in the Rhone-Alps region, which includes the cities of Lyon, Grenoble and Valence, helping to guide both mothers and fathers in the bonding process with their children.
Infant massage has two goals; firstly it has therapeutic benefits, helping with anything from tooth ache to constipation.
The second goal is to establish a definitive bond between the parents and the baby.
According to Christian Fimiak, who is a former security adviser and helicopter pilot and has been practicing infant massage since 2004, “Baby massage makes the baby feel loved. The baby has two needs; the physical and the emotional. The basic needs are easy for parents to fulfil, but it is the needs of the heart that creates the challenge.
“Having a baby can send parents back to their own childhood, which may have been an unhappy one. They find it difficult to give a child the emotional tools that they themselves may have missed out on because of neglect or maltreatment.
“The feedback from parents is that babies have a better sleep. There is marked improvement in the movement of gas around the intestine track, as there is a specific massage for the belly and this also means that the parents have a better sleep too, Fimiak said.
The development of infant massage has its roots in the study of how animals bond with their off spring. In a variety of studies by John Bowlby during the Second World War, the negative effect of early separation was observed with animals, and a connection was made with the many children who had been separated by the conflicts of the time and placed into foster homes.
“John Bowlby made the connection between anti-social behaviours and the lack of bonding, Fimiak said.
“The primary figure of attachment is the mother, but you can have a substitute mother; aunt, god mother, foster parent.
“I teach the parents over three or four sessions and it gives them the confidence to be pro-active parents. Especially, because often mothers are at home all day with their babies, it helps the mother and the father to understand that the baby is a human and is able to communicate.
Fimiak, who has worked in many countries as a security professional, including Iraq and Afghanistan, turned his hand to baby massage because he noticed that even though these countries lay in ruins, the people themselves were physiologically intact.
“When I returned to France, it was the other way round , Fimiak said.
“People are confused between their needs and their desires. We have no more needs; society supplies everything and we are drawn into the trivial desires of materialism, which creates frustration when you can not get everything you want.
“I always see people reviewing the checklist of what they don’t have, and not seeing that they have everything.
I can personally recommend it. Baby Max loves being oiled up and rubbed down. The only problem is that his mum is now getting a little jealous.