Massage therapy and sleep behaviour in infants born with low birth weight

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2006 Aug;12(3):200-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2005.11.007. Epub 2006 Feb 7.


This study attempts to evaluate the impact of massage therapy on sleep behaviour in infants born with low birth weight (LBW) in St. Petersburg, Russia. Fifty infants (22 boys, 28 girls) who were born in St. Petersburg between 2000 and 2002 and defined as LBW babies (<2500g at birth) were enrolled onto the study at the age of 2 months. Of these, 41 (19 boys, 22 girls) were light and pre-term infants (gestational age < or =36 weeks), and 9 (3 boys, 6 girls) born light at term. The control group consisted of 50 healthy infants born with LBW who were cross-matched with an experimental group of babies and controlled for gender, gestational age, weight and date of birth. The groups were also matched for proximal geographical distribution in the city. Babies in the experimental group were assigned massage intervention therapy that include gentle rubbing, stroking, passive movements of the limbs and other means of kinaesthetic stimulation performed by professionals until the infant is 8 months old. The findings suggest that 8-month-old LBW infants who received massage intervention were less likely to snore during sleep, required less feeding on waking-up at night, and appeared more alert during the day. These apparent correlations remained significant after adjustment was made for major potential confounders. No statistically significant difference was found in sleep behaviour between LBW infants exposed to massage therapy who were either born pre-term or at term. It is suggested that massage may be a valuable approach to improve quality of sleep and reduce sleep-disordered breathing in infants born with LBW. It is acknowledged that whilst this study does not represent a large sample, it is felt that the findings suggest further investigation and offer an insight into an area previously relatively unexplored.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior*
  • Infant Care / methods*
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Russia
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Sleep*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome