Massage intervention for preterm infants by their mothers: A randomized controlled trial

J Spec Pediatr Nurs. 2019 Apr;24(2):e12238. doi: 10.1111/jspn.12238. Epub 2019 Mar 18.


Objective: Studies of the impact of infant massage intervention on the growth of preterm infants have been conducted in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and have demonstrated positive effects; however, few data exist regarding the effects of massage interventions by mothers on the growth of infants in the NICU. The purpose of this randomized controlled trial was to examine the effects of a 2-week massage intervention conducted by mothers on their preterm infants.

Methods: Of 112 stable preterm infants born at a gestational age (GA) between 32 and 34 weeks and enrolled from an affiliated hospital, 54 were randomly allocated to an intervention group, and 58 were allocated to a control group. Mothers were trained to conduct a massage intervention in the intervention group, while the control group received standard care. For the infants in both groups, height (Ht), weight (Wt), and head circumference (HC) were measured at the onset of massage intervention, after one week, and after two weeks. Fifteen mothers were interviewed about their preparation for and completion of the massage intervention.

Results: Repeated-measures analysis of variance showed that weight, height and head circumference significantly increased in the intervention group. Preterm infants who underwent the two-week massage intervention had higher mean weight, height, and head circumference (F = 41.151, 6.621, 24.158, respectively; p < .001). This study developed modified massage intervention guidance to provide recommendations for optimal massage intervention by mothers in the NICU: (a) Adapt to the NICU atmosphere; (b) control the mother's strength; (c) slowly perform each period of the massage, that is (i) place in a prone position (5 + 5 min); (ii) place in supine position (5 min); (d) stay relaxed and watch the preterm infant's response.

Practice implications: Trained mothers conducted massage interventions, which can improve the growth of preterm infants. We developed massage intervention guidance to provide recommendations for optimal massage intervention by mothers in the NICU. We recommend that mothers apply massage intervention for preterm infants in the NICU.

Keywords: growth; massage intervention; premature; preterm infants.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Care / methods
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Treatment Outcome