Premature Massage in the NICU: Expanding research in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has documented the short-term advantages of gentle touch and massage for healthy term infants and for some growing and medically stable pre-term newborns. Parents of preemies gain confidence and greater security in their handling skills through healing loving touch. 

Significant Evidence-Based Research Findings of Infant Massage:
• Supports parent-infant interaction
• Facilitates weight gain in preterm infants1 
• Lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone
• Increases muscle tone
• Improves sleep and awake patterns
• Shortens lengths of stay in hospitals
• Improves cognitive and motor development at eight months of age
• Infant massage is an inexpensive tool
• Can be used as part of the developmental care plan of preterm infants
• Recent research shows there are significant benefits to infant massage that out weigh over-stimulation
• Properly applied techniques produce increased benefits, such as improved developmental scores and earlier discharge2

The Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida has been the leader in examining the benefits of infant massage with the premature infants to the well-baby.

Parents apply a few proper massage strokes to their baby at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Phoenix, AZ, 3.25.06 (See Video)

Benefits for Parents

Benefits for Babies

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Field, T., Schanberg, S. M., Scafidi, F., Bauer, C. R., Vega-Lahr, N., Garcia, R., Nystrom, J., and Kuhn, C. M.(1986). Tactile/ kinesthetic stimulation effects on preterm neonates. Pediatrics, 77, 654-658. 

2 Neonatal Network, 2003, May – June; 22 (3): 39-45. Children’s Hospital Newborn Special Care Unit at Docters West, Columbus, OH