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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Infant massage is massage given to a young infants involving tactile and kinesthetic stroke and rubbing stimulation as a therapy to enhance their cognitive and physical development. Such contact is also found in other mammals where the mother provides tactile stimulation as part of their care through licking, grooming, and physical contact. Infant massage is widespread in traditional societies. Research finds that massage enhances neural development and body growth in rodents and humans and is particularly important for preterm infants.




Full term infants

Full term infants receiving massage therapy show more weight, greater length, less irritability and better sleep.[1] It also reduces crying and improves an infant's ability to regulate their stress hormones.[2] Mothers with postnatal depression that massage their infants reduce their own depression and improve the quality of their social interactions with their infants.[3]

Preterm infants

Preterm newborns receiving massage in neonatal intensive-care units gain more body weight than those that do not.[4] Other benefits include increased bone mineralization, bone density, bone length, and head circumference.[5] They also show higher psycho-motor development and significantly higher Mental Development Index scores.[6] Such massage therapy seems to be more effective when it involves "moderate" pressure than "light" pressure.[7] Such infants also sleep better.[8] The body temperature of preterm infants increases when given massage compared to controls "even though the incubator portholes remained open during the 15 min massage therapy session but not for the control group over an equivalent time period".[9] This has been suggested to be due to better control by the infant's brain of its body state and its blood circulation.[9]Massage to the leg reduces pain prior to heel stick venipuncture.[10] Nondepressed mothers also show lower anxiety if they massage their preterm infants.[11] Length of stay in hospital and occurrence of late-onset sepsis is also reduced by mothers massaging their preterm infants.[12]


Infants show increased levels of insulin and IGF-1 in their blood serum following massage therapy and this links to them gaining extra body weight.[13] Raised levels of IGF-1 also accelerate neural development as measured by electroencephalography activity and visual acuity in the visual cortex both in rodents and humans.[14] In the case of rodents antagonists to IGF-1 blocks these positive effects of massage.[14]

Massage decreases right frontal EEG asymmetry in one-month-old infants of depressed mothers which could act to reduce stress.[15] Enhanced growth might be due to lower energy expenditure in infants receiving massage therapy.[16]


The use of certain oils in traditional societies such as mustard oil might effect newborn skin integrity and permeability.[17] Though other oils that are linoleate-enriched such as sunflower seed oil are safe and improve skin health.[18]


Ayurvedic medicine in ancient India taught the use of infant massage.[19] It was also has been encouraged in China since the Qing dynasty.[20] At present it is part of traditional childcare in South Asia and elsewhere where daily massage by mothers is seen as "instilling fearlessness, hardening bone structure, enhancing movement and limb coordination, and increasing weight"[21] Such massage often used potentially unsafe mustard oil though public education is now encouraging the use of safe alternatives.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Field M, Hernandez-Reif M, Diego L, Feijo Y. Vera Y, Gil K. (1996). Massage therapy by parents improves early growth and development. Infant Behavior & Development 27: 435–442. doi:10.1016/j.infbeh.2004.03.004
  2. ^ Underdown A, Barlow J, Chung V, Stewart-Brown S. (2006). Massage intervention for promoting mental and physical health in infants aged under six months. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.18;(4):CD005038. PMID 17054233
  3. ^ Onozawa K, Glover V, Adams D, Modi N, Kumar RC. (2001). Infant massage improves mother-infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression. J Affect Disord. 63(1-3):201-7. PMID 11246096
  4. ^ Field T. (Ed.). (2004). Touch and massage in early child development. New Brunswick, NJ: Johnson and Johnson Pediatric Institute. ISBN 978-0931562303
  5. ^ Moyer-Mileur L, Luetkemeier M, Boomer L, Chan GM. (1995). Effect of physical activity on bone mineralization in premature infants. J Pediatr. 127(4):620-5.PMID 7562289
  6. ^ Procianoy RS, Mendes EW, Silveira RC. (2010). Massage therapy improves neurodevelopment outcome at two years corrected age for very low birth weight infants. Early Hum Dev. PMID 20022717
  7. ^ Field T, Diego MA, Hernandez-Reif M, Deeds O, Figuereido B. (2006). Moderate versus light pressure massage therapy leads to greater weight gain in preterm infants. Infant Behav Dev. 29(4):574-8. PMID 17138310
  8. ^ Kelmanson IA, Adulas EI. (2006). Massage therapy and sleep behaviour in infants born with low birth weight.Complement Ther Clin Pract. 12(3):200-5. PMID 16835031
  9. ^ a b Diego MA, Field T, Hernandez-Reif M. (2008). Temperature increases in preterm infants during massage therapy. Infant Behav Dev. 31(1):149-52. PMID 17692385
  10. ^ Jain S, Kumar P, McMillan DD. (2006). Prior leg massage decreases pain responses to heel stick in preterm babies. J Paediatr Child Health. 42(9):505-8. PMID 16925535
  11. ^ Feijó L, Hernandez-Reif M, Field T, Burns W, Valley-Gray S, Simco E. (2006). Mothers' depressed mood and anxiety levels are reduced after massaging their preterm infants. Infant Behav Dev. Jul;29(3):476-80. PMID 17138300
  12. ^ Mendes EW, Procianoy RS. (2008). Massage therapy reduces hospital stay and occurrence of late-onset sepsis in very preterm neonates. J Perinatol. 28(12):815-20. PMID 18633421
  13. ^ Field T, Diego M, Hernandez-Reif M, Dieter JN, Kumar AM, Schanberg S, Kuhn C. (2008). Insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 increased in preterm neonates following massage therapy. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 29(6):463-6. PMID 18714203
  14. ^ a b Guzzetta A, Baldini S, Bancale A, Baroncelli L, Ciucci F, Ghirri P, Putignano E, Sale A, Viegi A, Berardi N, Boldrini A, Cioni G, Maffei L. (2009). Massage accelerates brain development and the maturation of visual function. Neurosci. 29(18):6042-51. PMID 19420271
  15. ^ Jones NA, Field T, Davalos M. (1998). Massage therapy attenuates right frontal EEG asymmetry in one-month-old infants. Infant Behavior and Development, 21: 527-530 doi:10.1016/S0163-6383(98)90025-X
  16. ^ Lahat S, Mimouni FB, Ashbel G, Dollberg S. (2007). Energy expenditure in growing preterm infants receiving massage therapy. J Am Coll Nutr. 26(4):356-9. PMID 17906188
  17. ^ Darmstadt GL, Mao-Qiang M, Chi E, Saha SK, Ziboh VA, Black RE, Santosham M, Elias PM. (2002). Impact of topical oils on the skin barrier: possible implications for neonatal health in developing countries. Acta Paediatr. 91(5):546-54. PMID 12113324
  18. ^ Darmstadt GL, Badrawi N, Law PA, Ahmed S, Bashir M, Iskander I, Al Said D, El Kholy A, Husein MH, Alam A, Winch PJ, Gipson R, Santosham M. Topically applied sunflower seed oil prevents invasive bacterial infections in preterm infants in Egypt: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. (2004). Pediatr Infect Dis J. 23(8):719-25. PMID 15295221
  19. ^ Johari H. (1996). Ayurvedic Massage: Traditional Indian Techniques for Balancing Body and Mind. Inner Traditions Bear and Company. ISBN 978-0892814893
  20. ^ Furth C. (1987). Concepts of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Infancy in Ch'ing Dynasty China. Journal of Asian Studies, 46:7-35. JSTOR 2056664
  21. ^ Reissland N, Burghart R.(1987). The role of massage in south Asia: child health and development.Soc Sci Med. 25(3):231-9.PMID 3629298
  22. ^ Mullany LC, Darmstadt GL, Khatry SK, Tielsch JM. (2005). Traditional massage of newborns in Nepal: implications for trials of improved practice. J Trop Pediatr. 51(2):82-6. PMID 15677372

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