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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 7:44 EDT

Massage improves weight gain in preterm infants

August 19, 2005

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Moderate-pressure massage
therapy increases weight gain in preterm infants by improving
stomach motion, investigators at the University of Miami School
of Medicine report.

Clinical trials have documented greater weight gain in
premature infants after 5 to 10 days of massage, even though
food intake and total sleeping time are not increased, Dr.
Miguel A. Diego and his associates point out in the Journal of
Pediatrics.

To determine the reason behind massage’s beneficial
effects, Diego’s group randomly selected 48 preterm infants to
receive moderate-pressure massage therapy, nontherapeutic light
massage or no massage. The electrical activity of the heart and
the stomach was assessed before, during and after the treatment
sessions on the first day of the trial.

Moderate massage therapy was applied with the infant
positioned on his or her stomach, with pressure sufficient to
produce a slight skin color change — from pink to white in a
white infant or slight indentations in the skin. The light
massage was identical to the therapeutic massage, except that
the massage produced no skin color change or skin indentation.

The investigators note that infants in the true massage
group gained 27 percent more weight than those in the other
groups, but food intake was not affected. Further analysis
showed that this weight gain was related to improvements in
stomach motion.

SOURCE: Journal of Pediatrics, July 2005.