Physiotherapists and mid-wives have long hailed the benefits of infant massage, but does it really work? And what does it do?
A recent research study observed a group of hospitalized, pre-mature infants receiving 3 x 15-minutes massages for 10 days and found that the massage held some very real benefits for both the infants and their parents.
The infants receiving these daily massages:
- gained 47% more weight
- were hospitalized for 6 fewer days (which amounts to hospital cost saving of about R60 000)
- were more responsive to social stimulation
- and 8 months later – still showed a growth advantage and their performance on mental and motor development tests were superior to premature infants who were not massaged
Massage therapy with full term infants leads to less irritability, more alertness, better weight gain and better sleep patterns in the infants (and hopefully more sleep for the parents too). Infant massages also has benefits for infant-parent bonding, lessening of postpartum depression, lessened intake of caffeine and increases in self-esteem in parents.