Baby Massage and Premature Babies
Baby Massage is beneficial for all babies but studies and research have shown that premature babies can gain particularly great benefits from touch and tactile stimulation and it can help support their development.
How can we describe a premature baby?
The World Health Organisation defines a premature baby as a baby born before 37 weeks from the first day of the last menstrual period. With modern medical advances babies can now be delivered and survive as young as 24 weeks.
What is the evidence that baby massage helps premature babies?
A ground breaking and significant study on baby massage and premature babies was undertaken by Doctor Tiffany Field, the founder of the Touch Research Institute, which seeks to study the effects of positive touch and massage for individuals in society.
The study published in 1986 showed that;
- Premature babies that received gentle touch gained 47% more weight than a comparative group;
- Their development and sensory awareness was enhancing enabling them to leave a medical setting 6 days earlier than a comparative group;
- Further study of the babies who had received massage shown that eight months after birth they had increased motor and cognitive development.
Massage releases feel good hormones into the body, which increase appetite and enable restful sleep and relaxation. Massage helps to counteract stress and anxiety.
Considerations and Precautions for baby massage with premature babies
Baby massage is gentle and safe to use with all babies but we can modify the massage routine slightly to support the development of premature babies. Below are a few issues to consider;
You may like to try massage whilst holding baby in your arms rather than lying baby down. This may make him feel more relaxed.
Premature babies commonly suffer from tummy pains and windy problems, as the digestive tract may be immature. Tummy massage can really help to reduce pain and colic. Start just by holding your hand across baby’s tummy to help bring comfort. Once he is comfortable you can move on to the colic tummy massage routine.
You may find your baby may be sensitive to touch so make sessions shorter and always start slowly on a non-intrusive area such as the hands or legs/feet. Make sure your strokes are gentle. When you are ready you are both ready, you can move on to other areas.
Always try to talk to, and make eye contact with, your baby during massage, making sure he is still happy to continue.
Baby massage also enhances the bonding process between mother and baby and can help you feel more connected to your baby particularly if the birth was traumatic, unexpected and there have been complication after the birth.
When massaging your baby’s feet, be aware of their body language and reaction. Some premature baby’s have sensitive feet, due to heel prick tests or memories of invasive procedures in hospital. Never massage over unhealed scars or an unhealed navel.
If you baby has any chronic health issues, always consult your medical professional before massage and in addition insure that your baby is health, well and happy before massage having no signs of fever, sickness, diarrhoea or rashes etc.
If your baby is very sensitive, try containment holds such as kangaroo care where you place baby close to your chest and hold them. Babies are often relaxed by the sound of the heartbeat, the warmth of the body and the security of your arms. Practice this until you feel you baby is ready to progress to massage.
Premature babies can have sensitive skins so avoid any chemically enhanced products and use an 100% organic sunflower seed oil on he skin, This is packed full of nutrients and safe to use. Click here to buy our organic baby massage oil.
Make sure you baby is warm enough. Try massage over clothes or keep baby wrapped in a blanket and uncover only the part you are working on.