Babies thrive on loving touch. Parents and caregivers have known the importance of skin-to-skin contact for millenia, but it’s only been in recent times that science has begun studying and trying to quantify the amazing power of massage and other touch techniques:
Improved Sleep Patterns
Infants who were massaged before bedtime adjusted to a more favorable rest-activity cycle by the age of 8 weeks and produced more melatonin, a sleep regulator, during the night by the age of 12 weeks.
– Ferber SG, Laudon M, Kuint J, Weller A, Zisapel N. Massage therapy and sleep-wake rhythms in the neonate. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 2002;23(6):410-415.
Reduction of Stress
Cortisol levels, a stress indicator, was significantly lower after infant massage.
– White-Traut RC, Pate CM, Modulating infant state in premature infants. J Pediatr Nurs. 1987;2(2):96-101.
Improved Interaction in Families
Fathers who used massage techniques with their infants experienced increased self-esteem as a parents. The babies greeted their fathers with more eye contact, smiling, vocalizing and reaching responses. The fathers were more expressive and showed more enjoyment and more warmth during floor-play interactions with their infants.
– 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.
Support of Mother’s Mental Health
Learning the practice of infant massage by mothers may be an effective treatment for facilitating mother-infant interaction in mothers with postnatal depression. Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scores improved for the mothers who learned massage, as did their video-taped mother-baby interactions.
– Onozawa k, Glover V, Adams D, Modi N, Kumar RC. Infant massage improves mother-Infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression
Increased Weight Gain for Premature Infants
Premature infants that were massaged regularly had higher daily weight gain, increased motor activity, and better Brazelton neonatal behavioral assessment scores. They had a better conversion of calories to weight gain.
– Field TM, Schanberg SM, Scafidi F, et al. Tactile/kinesthetic stimulation effects on preterm neonates. Pediatrics. 1986;77(5):654-658.
– Phillips RB, Moses HA. Skin hunger effects on preterm neonates. Infant Toddler Intervention. 1996;6(1):39-46.