It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that newborns (especially pre-term infants) may benefit from massage therapy.
Research has shown that neonatal handling affects the neurochemical brain development of certain regions in the brain that regulate the response to stress. The benefits of massage therapy for pre-term infants have been well documented in several studies; some of the cited research involves small sample sizes. Taken together, however, the total research cited is supportive.
These benefits include the following:
- Massage is a cost-effective therapy for pre-term infants.
- Pre-term infants gained more weight with just five days of massage.
- Massage therapy by mothers in the perinatal period serves as a strong time cue, enhancing coordination of the developing circadian system with environmental cues.
- Over the 6-week period, the massage therapy infants gained more weight, showed greater improvement on emotionality, sociability, and soothability temperament dimensions and had greater decreases in urinary stress catecholamines/hormones (norepinephrine, epinephrine, cortisol).
- Infants receiving massage showed fewer sleep delay behaviors and had a shorter latency to sleep onset by the end of the study.
- Massage may have a stress reducing effect on pre-term infants in the NICU.
- Reduction of illness and diarrheal episodes in orphaned children in Ecuador.
- Improve quality of sleep and reduce sleep-disordered breathing in low birth weight babies.
Disclaimer: Position statements of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) are approved by the AMTA House of Delegates and reflect the views and opinions of the association, based on current research. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to scope of practice, medical diagnosis or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company or specific massage therapy technique, modality or approach.
Originally proposed by Retta Flagg & Ann Blair Kennedy
Approved September 2008