Objectives: To examine whether maternal-child interaction during feedings was suboptimal in dyads in which the infant had gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and to compare massage therapy to a nonmassage therapy sham treatment in improving the mother-child interaction in these dyads.
Design: In this randomized, controlled pilot study, infants received massage therapy (n=18) or a nonmassage touch/holding sham treatment (n=18). Mothers, data collectors, and the investigator who scored the feeding observations were blinded to group assignment.
Settings/location: Dyads were recruited from pediatric care providers in the Denver metropolitan area and online advertisements at the University of Colorado. Treatments were given in the home of the dyad.
Participants: Healthy infants, born at 38-42 weeks gestational age, were 5-10 weeks of age at enrollment; had a score of at least 16 on the Infant Gastroesophageal Reflux Questionnaire-Revised; and were diagnosed with GERD by their pediatric provider. Mothers were English speaking and at least 18 years of age.
Interventions: Treatments were given for 30 minutes twice weekly for 6 weeks. A certified infant massage therapist administered massage, and a registered nurse or physical therapist experienced with infants administered the control treatment.
Outcome measures: Maternal and infant scores on the Nursing Child Assessment of Feeding Scale (NCAFS).
Results: NCAFS scores were significantly lower than national norms. Small to moderately sized effects showing improvement in the massage group relative to the nonmassage group were seen for Sensitivity to Cues, Social-Emotional Growth Fostering, Cognitive Growth Fostering, and Clarity of Cues (Cohen d) and ranged from 0.24 to 0.56.
Conclusions: Mothers and infants with GERD experience significantly worse interactions than those without GERD. Massage given twice weekly by a professional trended toward improved interaction during feeding. Daily maternal administration of massage may have a positive effect on the relationship.