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Massage Abstracts Related to Infants

These massage abstracts came from the Touch Research Institute, established in 1992 by Tiffany Field, Ph.D. at the University of Miami School of Medicine.There are many more where these came from. TRI was the first center in the world devoted to the study of touch and its application in science and medicine. Its site is worth a visit.


Cullen, C., Field, T., Escalona, A. & Hartshorn, K. (2000).

Father-infant interactions are enhanced by massage therapy.

Early Child Development and Care, 164, 41-47.

METHOD: Fathers gave their infants daily massages 15 minutes prior to bedtime for one month.

RESULTS: By the end of the study, the fathers who massaged their infants were more expressive and showed more enjoyment and more warmth during interactions with their infants.


Scholtz, K., & Samuels, C. A. (1992).

Neonatal bathing and massage intervention with fathers: Behavioral effects 12 weeks after birth of the first baby.

International Journal of Behavioral Development,15, 67-81.

METHOD: Australian families with first-born babies were studied for effects of a 4-week-postpartum training program (demonstration of baby massage and the Burleigh Relaxation Bath technique), with emphasis on the father-infant relationship. 16 families were assigned to the treatment group and 16 served as controls.

RESULTS: At the 12-week home observation, the treatment group infants greeted their fathers with more eye contact, smiling, vocalizing, reaching, and orienting responses and showed less avoidance behaviors. During a 10-min observation, the treatment group fathers showed greater involvement with their infants.


Ferber, S.G., Laudon, M., Kuint, J., Weller, A., & Zisapel, N. (2002).

Massage therapy by mothers enhances the adjustment of circadian rhythms to the nocturnal period in full-term infants.

Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 23, 410-415.

METHOD: This study investigated the effect of massage therapy on phase adjustment of rest-activity and melatonin secretion rhythms to the nocturnal period in full-term infants. Rest-activity of infants was measured by actigraphy before and after 14 days of massage therapy (starting at approximately age 10 days) and subsequently at 6 and 8 weeks of age. Melatonin was assessed in urine samples at 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age.

RESULTS: At 8 weeks the controls revealed 1 peak of activity at approximately 12 midnight and another one at approximately 12 noon, whereas in the treated group, a major peak was early in the morning and a secondary peak in the late afternoon. At 12 weeks, nocturnal melatonin excretions were significantly higher in the treated infants. Thus, massage therapy by mothers in the perinatal period serves as a strong time cue, enhancing coordination of the developing circadian system with environmental cues.


Field, T. & Hernandez-Reif, M. (2001).

Sleep problems in infants decrease following massage therapy.

Early Child Development and Care, 168, 95-104.

METHOD: Infants and toddlers (mean age=1.5 years) with sleep onset problems were given daily massages by their parents for 15 minutes prior to bedtime for 1 month.

RESULTS: Based on parent diaries, the massaged versus the control children (who were read bedtime stories) showed fewer sleep problems and had a shorter latency to sleep onset by the end of the study. Forty-five minute behavior observations by an independent observer also revealed more time awake, alert and active and more positive affect in the massaged children by the end of the study.


Kim, T.I., Shin, Y.H., & White-Traut, R.C. (2003).

Multisensory intervention improves physical growth and illness rates in Korean orphaned newborn infants.

Res Nurs Health, 26, 424-33.

METHOD: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a multisensory intervention on the physical growth and health of Korean orphaned infants. Fifty-eight full-term infants were randomly assigned to a control or an experimental group within 14 days postbirth. In addition to receiving the routine orphanage care, infants in the experimental group received 15 min of auditory (female voice), tactile (massage), and visual (eye-to-eye contact) stimulation twice a day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks.

RESULTS: Compared to the control group, the experimental group gained significantly more weight and had larger increases in length and head circumference after the 4-week intervention period and at 6 months of age. In addition, the experimental group had significantly fewer illnesses and clinic visits.


Agarwal, K.N., Gupta, A., Pushkarna, R., Bhargava, S.K., Faridi, M.M., & Prabhu, M.K. (2000).

Effects of massage & use of oil on growth, blood flow & sleep pattern in infants.

Indian J Med Res., 112, 212-7.

METHOD: The present study investigated massage oils commonly used in the community for massaging infancts. Full term born healthy infants (n = 125), 6 weeks of age, were randomly divided into five groups. Infants received (i) herbal oil, (ii) sesame oil, (iii) mustard oil, or (iv) mineral oil for massage daily for 4 week. The fifth group did not receive massage and served as a control group.

RESULTS: Massage improved the weight, length, and midarm and midleg circumferences as compared to infants without massage. However, the group with sesame oil massage increased in length, midarm and midleg circumferences. The femoral artery blood velocity, diameter and flow improved significantly in the group with sesame oil massage as compared to the control group. Massage also improved the post massage sleep time.


Field, T., Schanberg, S., Davalos, M., & Malphurs, J. ( 1996).

Massage with oil has more positive effects on normal infants.

Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 11, 75-80.

METHOD: Sixty, one-month-old infants were randomly assigned to a massage group with oil and a massage group without oil. Massage had a soothing/calming influence on the infants, particularly when given with oil.

RESULTS: The infants who received massage with oil were less active, showed fewer stress behaviors and head averting, and their saliva cortisol levels decreased more. In addition, vagal activity increased more following massage with oil versus massage without oil.


Dieter, J., Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Emory, E.K., & Redzepi, M. (2003).

Stable preterm infants gain more weight and sleep less after five days of massage therapy.

Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 28, 403-11.

METHOD: To determine whether a shorter course of massage therapy leads to greater weight gain in grower nursery preterm infants, massage therapy was provided for preterm neonates over 5 days.

RESULTS: Massaged infants gained 47% more weight per day than control infants.


Ferber, S.G. Kuint, J., Weller, A., Feldman, R., Dollberg, S., Arbel, E., & Kohelet D. (2002).

Massage therapy by mothers and trained professionals enhances weight gain in preterm infants.

Early Human Development, 37, 37-45.

METHOD: This study compared maternal and nonmaternal administration of massage therapy to preterm infants. Healthy, preterm infants assigned to three groups: two treatment groups--one in which the mothers performed the massage, and the other in which a professional female unrelated to the infant administered the treatment. Both these groups were compared to a control group.

RESULTS: Over the 10-day study period, the two treatment groups gained significantly more weight compared to the control group.


Field, T. (2001). (Review).

Massage therapy facilitates weight gain in preterm infants.

Current Directions in Psychological Science, 10, 51-54.

REVIEW: Studies from several labs have documented a 31 to 47% greater weight gain in preterm newborns receiving massage therapy (3 15-min. sessions for 5-10 days) compared with standard medical treatment. Although the underlying mechanism for this relationship between massage therapy and weight gain has not yet been established, possibilites that have been explored in studies with both humans and rats include (1) increased protein synthesis, (2) increased vagal activity that releases food-absorption hormones like insulin and enhances gastric motility, and (3) decreased cortisol levels leading to increased oxytocin. In addition, functional magnetic resonance imaging studies are being conducted to assess the effects of touch therapy on brain development.


Field, T., Scafidi, F., and Schanberg, S. (1987).

Massage of preterm newborns to improve growth and development.

Pediatric Nursing, 13, 385-387.

METHOD: The data reviewed here suggest that the growth and development of preterm neonates can be facilitated by tactile-kinesthetic stimulation.

RESULTS: Greater weight gain and superior performance on developmental assessments persisted across the first 6 months for the group of infants that received the massage treatment. These enduring effects may be mediated by better parent-infant interactions. Heightened responsiveness of the neonate may enhance the early parent-infant relationships which may, in turn, contribute to optimal growth and development at later stages in infancy.


Field, T. & Schanberg, S. M. (1990).

Massage alters growth and catecholamine production in preterm newborns.

Gunzenhauser, N., Brazelton, T. B., and Field, T. Johnson & Johnson.Advances in Touch. Skillman, N. J.

METHOD: Forty medically stable preterm nenonates received tactile/kinesthetic stimulation for three 15-minute periods during three consecutive hours every day for ten days.

RESULTS: Despite similar formula and caloric intake, the treatment infants averaged a 21 percent greater daily weight gain than the control infants over the treatment period. In addition, the treatment group showed superior performance on the NBAS on the habituation cluster following the treatment period, and less time in active sleep and less facial grimacing, mouthing/yawning, and clenched fists.


Field, T., Schanberg, S., Scafidi, F., Bauer, C., Vega-Lahr, N., Garcia, R., Nystrom, J., & Kuhn, C. (1986).

Tactile/kinesthetic stimulation effects on preterm neonates.

Pediatrics, 77, 654-658.

METHOD: Tactile/kinesthetic stimulation was given to 20 preterm neonates (mean gestational age, 31 weeks; mean birth weight, 1,280 g; mean time in neonatal intensive care unit, 20 days) during transitional ("grower") nursery care, and their growth, sleep-wake behavior, and Brazelton scale performance was compared with a group of 20 control neonates. The tactile/kinesthetic stimulation consisted of body stroking and passive movements of the limbs for three, 15-minute periods per day for 10 days.

RESULTS: The stimulated neonates averaged a 47% greater weight gain per day (mean 25 g versus 17 g), were more active and alert during sleep/wake behavior observations, and showed more mature habituation, orientation, motor, and range of state behavior on the Brazelton scale than control infants. Finally, their hospital stay was 6 days shorter, yielding a cost savings of approximately $3,000 per infant. These data suggest that tactile/kinesthetic stimulation may be a cost effective way of facilitating growth and behavioral organization even in very small preterm neonates.


Scafidi, F., Field, T., Schanberg, S., Bauer, C., Vega-Lahr, N., & Garcia, R. (1986).

Effects of tactile/kinesthetic stimulation on the clinical course and sleep/wake behavior of preterm neonates.

Infant Behavior and Development, 9, 91-105.

METHOD: Forty preterm neonates treated in an intensive care nursery (M gestational age = 31 weeks, M birthweight = 1274 gms) were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. The treatment infants received tactile/kinesthetic stimulation (body massage and passive movements of the limbs) for three 15-minute periods during three consecutive hours for a 10-day period. At the end of the treatment period the behavioral states and activity level of the neonates were monitored during sleep/wake behavior observations. In addition, neonatal behaviors were assessed on the Brazelton scale.

RESULTS: The treated infants averaged a 47% greater weight gain per day (25 vs. 17 grams), and spent more time awake and active during sleep/wake behavior observations. On the Brazelton scale the treated infants showed more mature orientation, motor, habituation, and range of state behaviors. Finally, the treated infants were discharged 6 days earlier, yielding hospital cost savings of $3,000 per infant.


Scafidi, F. A., Field, T., & Schanberg, S. M. (1993)

Factors that predict which preterm infants benefit most from massage therapy.

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics,14, 176-180.

METHOD: Ninety-three preterm infants (M gestational age = 30 weeks; M birthweight = 1204 g; M ICU duration = 15 days) were randomly assigned to a massage therapy group or a control group once they were considered medically stable. The treatment group (N = 50) received three daily 15-minute massages for 10 days.

RESULTS: The massage therapy infants gained more weight per day (M=32 vs. 29 g) than the control infants. The treatment and control groups were divided into high and low weight gainers based on the average weight gain for the control group. Seventy percent of the massage therapy infants were classified as high weight gainers whereas only 40% of the control infants were classified as high weight gainers. Discriminant function analyses determining the characteristics that distinguished the high from the low weight gainers suggested that the control infants who, before the study, consumed more calories and spent less time in intermediate care gained more weight. In contrast, for the massage therapy group, the pattern of greater caloric intake and more days in intermediate care before the study period along with more obstetric complications differentiated the high from the low weight gainers, suggesting that the infants who had experienced more complications before the study benefited more from the massage therapy. These variables accurately predicted 78% of the infants who benefited more from the massage therapy.


Wheeden, A., Scafidi, F. A., Field, T., Ironson, G., Valdeon, C., and Bandstra, E. (1993).

Massage effects on cocaine-exposed preterm neonates.

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 14, 318-322.

METHOD: Thirty preterm cocaine-exposed preterm neonates (mean gestational age = 30 weeks, mean birth weight = 1212 g, mean intensive care unit duration = 18 days) were randomly assigned to a massage therapy or a control group as soon as they were considered medically stable. Group assignment was based on a random stratification of gestational age, birth weight, intensive care unit duration, and entry weight into the study. The treatment group (N = 15) received massages for three 15-minute periods 3 consecutive hours for a 10-day period.

RESULTS: Findings suggested that the massaged infants (1) averaged 28% greater weight gain per day (M=33 vs 26 g), although the groups did not differ in intake (calories or volume), (2) showed significantly fewer postnatal complications and stress behaviors than did control infants, and (3) demonstrated more mature motor behaviors on the Brazelton examination at the end of the 10-day study period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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