Oil massage in neonates: an open randomized controlled study of coconut versus mineral oil

Indian Pediatr. 2005 Sep;42(9):877-84.


Introduction: Oil massage for newborns is reported to improve weight gain by better thermoregulation. A role for transcutaneous absorption has also been suggested.

Aims and objectives: This study was undertaken to compare the effect of massage with coconut oil versus mineral oil and placebo (powder) on growth velocity and neuro-behavior in well term and preterm babies.

Study design: Open Randomized Controlled trial.

Setting: The Premature unit and the postnatal wards of a major teaching hospital in a metropolitan city.

Material and methods: Intramural preterm appropriate for gestational age babies weighing between 1500 to 2000 grams and term births weighing more than 2500 grams fulfilling the inclusion criteria constituted the two gestation age categories studied. Babies in each group were randomized to receive massage with either coconut oil, mineral oil or with placebo. Oil massage was given by a trained person from day 2 of life till discharge, and thereafter by the mother until 31 days of age, four times a day. Babies were followed up daily till discharge and every week after discharge for anthropometry. Neuro-behavioral outcome was assessed by the Brazelton Score at baseline, day 7 and on day 31.

Results: Coconut oil massage resulted in significantly greater weight gain velocity as compared to mineral oil and placebo in the preterm babies group; and in the term baby group, as compared to the placebo. Preterm infants receiving coconut oil massage also showed a greater length gain velocity compared to placebo group. No statistically significant difference was observed in the neurobehavioral assessment between all three subgroups in term babies as well as in preterm babies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Coconut Oil
  • Emollients / administration & dosage*
  • Emollients / adverse effects
  • Exanthema / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Massage / instrumentation*
  • Massage / methods
  • Mineral Oil / administration & dosage*
  • Mineral Oil / adverse effects
  • Plant Oils / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Oils / adverse effects
  • Powders
  • Talc / administration & dosage
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Emollients
  • Plant Oils
  • Powders
  • Talc
  • Mineral Oil
  • Coconut Oil