The Home of Baby Massage & Baby Yoga

Research Supporting Baby Massage

The evidence for nurturing touch & infant massage 

We love science and research because it confirms the use of skin to skin practices, nurturing touch and massage to enhance the physical and emotional wellbeing of parents and babies. Studies have repeatedly shown that responsive parenting and attachment is the key to the emotional wellbeing of children. When we teach infant massage, we teach love, compassion, empathy and understanding to create positive early experiences for children and secure loving relationships. This has an effect on the child, the parent and society as a whole. We use science, research & cultural practice to info our Nurture Manifesto which covers the aims and objectives of what we do and is embedded into all our training, courses and campaigns.

The practice of infant massage provides the opportunity for parents to tune into their babies, communicate love and security and read their cues. It enables the crucial process of bonding and an infant’s understanding of action/reaction and the foundations of empathy. It also helps the activation of the serve-and-return wiring in the brain, provide the basis of healthy brain architecture: particularly in relation to life-long mental well-being, empathy, emotional regulation, and cognitive skills (Feldman, Rosenthal & Eidelman, 2014; National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004; World Health Organisation, 2004).

Infants who experience more physical contact with caregivers demonstrate increased mental development in the first six months of life compared to young children who receive limited physical interaction. Furthermore, this improved cognitive development has been shown to last even after eight years, illustrating the importance of positive interactions. Infants who receive above-average levels of affection from their mothers are shown to be less likely to be hostile, anxious, or emotionally distressed as adults. (Coleman, Daniel. “The Experience of Touch: Research Points to a Critical Role.” New York Times. February 1988 and Gardner, Amanda. “Can a Mother’s Affection Prevent Anxiety in Adulthood?” July 2010) Taken from Urban Child Institute

Research and benefits for premature babies

If you would like to know more about how baby massage, skin to skin and kangeroo care can help support premature babies, visit our dedicated page here

R. Hansen and G Ulrey (1988) Motorically Impaired Infants:Impact of a Massage Procedure of Caregiver-Infant Interactions. Journal of Mutihandicapped Person, Vol 1

This study took place with mother’s with infants with motor problems. Parents regularly massaged their babies and displayed more positive interaction. Parents expectations and behaviour changed towards their children, positively changing and enhancing parent child interaction.

Imperial College London, Fetal and Neonatal Stress Research Group Dr Vivanne Glover 2008 Report: Massage and mother baby interaction with depressed mothers, carried out by Fetal and Neonatal Stress Research Group.

Mothers with postnatal depression are known to have potentially difficult relationships with their babies. The aim of this study was to find out whether attending baby massage classes would be beneficial to them. A group who attended five massage classes was compared with a similar group who attended a support group. At the end of the test period the massage group had significantly less depression and very significantly better interaction with their babies, than the control group. This is the first time that a method has been found for improving the relationship between a depressed mother and her baby. Further research needs to be conducted in this area to show the benefits of baby massage to post natally depressed women.

Use of lavender essential oil with children

After an article in 2007 claiming that lavender essential oil may cause secondary sexual characteristics in young boys, this article uses further studies to dispute these claims.

Summary of touch and massage in early childhood and how it may support child development.

Tiffany Field’s fascinating summary and overview of the benefits of touch and massage throughout childhood. A brilliant document which is an essential read for all health professionals working with positive touch and children. The document can be found here.

The power of the cuddle chemicals: Oxytocin and its production on skin contact

The benefits of Kangeroo Care

Study comparing skin to skin contact with the more traditional Western care styles

Summary of the benefits of baby massage

A summary of the benefits of baby massage as observed in a research study in Brisbane Australia.

Massage for children with special needs

This study shows the benefits and gains for parents and children with special needs when massage is used.

Tiffany Field,Scanfidi F, Abrams S and Richardson S (1996) Massage therapy for infants of depressed mothers Infant Behaviour and Development 19 p109-114

Adolescent mothers with post natal depression were asked to massage their babies for fifteen minutes a day for two days a week for 6 weeks. The results showed that the infants’ sleep increased after massage and they had increased vocalisation, decreased restlessness and there was more mother/baby interaction. The mothers all felt their babies had benefited from baby massage and the infants were more settled after two weeks having longer quiet alert states, and exhibiting less crying. They also did the experiment with mothers rocking their babies for the same period instead of massage which illustrated that massage had greater benefits for inducing sleep and prolonging quiet alert periods than simple rocking.

Indian Milking For Leg Massage-The Ongoing Debate

The safety of Indian milking strokes for the legs is continuing to be debated.

Massage strokes generally work towards the heart in the practice of Swedish massage. In traditional Indian massage some strokes move away from the heart. As there is some contradiction between the correct direction of strokes, an investigation is currently being undertaken into this to ensure the safest practice for baby massage. Currently there is no conclusion as to whether strokes away from the heart should be included or should be avoided and therefore stokes in both directions are still included in the routine taught on Blossom & Berry baby massage courses. If you have a baby with circulatory problems, it would be prudent to omit strokes away from the heart and instead include more strokes towards the heart instead. It may also be prudent to make strokes on the legs which travel away from the heart lighter. If there are any developments on this research, we will update you. Please follow the link below to more information.

Field T, Hernandez Reif M, Sleep problems in infants decrease following massage therapy, Early Child development 1988

This study concluded that massage helps babies and toddlers settle down to sleep. After one month of fifteen minutes of massage a day, children fell asleep faster. The sleep problem rate in the group fell from 100% to 33%. Research supporting weight gain through positive touch. Many studies have shown that infants who are massaged put on weight. Massage increases the activity of the vagus nerve and increased vagal activity during massage leads to an increase in the production of sugar absorption hormones such as insulin which could account for the weight gain of infants who are massaged. (Tiffany Field. Interview 1998).

“Massage Intervention for promoting mental and physical health in infants under six months (Review)” University of Warwick 2006.

Research by a team at the University of Warwick says that massage may help infants aged under six months sleep better, cry less and be less stressed. The team of researchers from Warwick Medical School and the Institute of Education at the University of Warwick was led by Angela Underdown. They looked at nine studies of massage of young children covering a total of 598 infants aged under six months. They found the various studies showed a range of significant results including indications that infants who were massaged cried less, slept better, and had lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol compared to infants who did not receive massage. One of the studies examined also claimed that massage could affect the release of the hormone melatonin, “which is important in aiding infants’ sleeping patterns,” (Underdown 2006).

Taken from Warwick University News & Event website.

Danby SG, Alenezi T, Sultan A, Lavender T, Chittock J, Brown K, Cork MJ

Academic Unit of Dermatology Research, Department of Infection and Immunity, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield Medical School, Sheffield, UK.

Pediatr Dermatol. 2013 Jan;30(1):42-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1470.2012.01865.x. Epub 2012 Sep 20.

Natural oils are advocated and used throughout the world as part of neonatal skin care, but there is an absence of evidence to support this practice. The goal of the current study was to ascertain the effect of olive oil and sunflower seed oil on the biophysical properties of the skin. Nineteen adult volunteers with and without a history of atopic dermatitis were recruited into two randomized forearm-controlled mechanistic studies. The first cohort applied six drops of olive oil to one forearm twice daily for 5 weeks. The second cohort applied six drops of olive oil to one forearm and six drops of sunflower seed oil to the other twice daily for 4 weeks. The effect of the treatments was evaluated by determining stratum corneum integrity and cohesion, intercorneocyte cohesion, moisturization, skin-surface pH, and erythema. Topical application of olive oil for 4 weeks caused a significant reduction in stratum corneum integrity and induced mild erythema in volunteers with and without a history of atopic dermatitis. Sunflower seed oil preserved stratum corneum integrity, did not cause erythema, and improved hydration in the same volunteers. In contrast to sunflower seed oil, topical treatment with olive oil significantly damages the skin barrier, and therefore has the potential to promote the development of, and exacerbate existing, atopic dermatitis. The use of olive oil for the treatment of dry skin and infant massage should therefore be discouraged. These findings challenge the unfounded belief that all natural oils are beneficial for the skin and highlight the need for further research.