Aim: To determine whether preterm infant massage leads to consistent increases in vagal activity and gastric motility and whether these increases are associated with greater weight gain.
Methods: EKG and EGG were recorded in 80 preterm infants randomly assigned to a moderate pressure massage therapy group or to a standard care control group to assess vagal activity and gastric motility responses to massage therapy.
Results: Massaged infants exhibited consistent short-term increases in vagal activity and gastric motility on both the first and the last days of the 5-day study that were associated with weight gain during the 5-day treatment period. No changes in basal vagal activity or gastric motility were noted across the 5-day treatment period.
Conclusion: Preterm infant massage is consistently associated with increases in vagal activity and gastric motility that may underlie the effects of massage therapy on preterm infant weight gain.