The American Massage Therapy Association notes that massage therapy can be very helpful for infants, as it enables premature infants to gain weight, improves their social and emotional temperament, decreases urinary stress and diarrhea, improves quality of sleep and reduces sleep-related breathing problems in babies born with a low birth weight.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information backs up these claims, noting that studies done on premature infants clearly show that massage therapy clearly brings about improvements in an infant’s autonomic nervous system, although the benefits were much greater for baby boys than baby girls. (Interestingly enough, the studies show that premature boys were more likely to experience ANS problems than premature girls.)
How it Works
A person’s automatic nervous system (or ANS as it is known) is what enables a baby to adapt to life’s stresses, according to Carrington College. When a baby is born prematurely, his or her automatic nervous system is not fully developed, thus leaving the little one unable to handle even mildly stress-inducing situations that the average newborn would be able to deal with. This, coupled with the fact that most premature babies are separated from their mothers and put in an incubator in the NICU in order to be kept alive and properly nourished, leaves many premature babies with a low heart-rate variability (HRV).
Researchers who have performed massage therapy on premature babies have found that the babies’ HRV rose significantly after the massage was performed. The massages were given two times a day for a four-week period and were administered by licensed therapists who gently rubbed the babies for up to twenty minutes at a time. The massage includes all six main compression strokes (thighs to feet, chest to ribcage, shoulders to hands, crown of the head to the neck, back of the neck to the waist).
Other Benefits of Infant Massage
It should be noted that infant massage is not just something that benefits premature babies. Even babies who were born full-term can benefit from being massaged on a regular basis. The Mayo Clinic notes that some of the general benefits of infant massage include:
• Enabling a parent to bond with his or her child, which has been shown to boost cognitive and social development, says KidsHealth
• Helping a baby of almost any age relax and sleep better at night and during naptimes
• Eliminating stress
• Reducing crying
The Overall Benefits of Massage
Massage therapy has been popular for hundreds of years and it is not hard to see why. It is not only relaxing but is also effective in treating injuries to muscles and/or tissues, improving circulation and alleviating pain. Unlike modern medical procedures, it is non-invasive in nature and there are few if any risks involved, especially if a licensed therapist with proper training administers the massage.
Providing massage therapy to individuals of any age can be a rewarding and fulfilling career option. It is also one that offers plenty of job opportunities; in fact, BLS statistics show that the job market in this field is set to grow by 23% before 2022. The profession is also becoming more integrated into the mainstream medical community as studies clearly show that massage is an effective form of treatment that should not be overlooked.
Audrey Clark is a skilled freelance blogger covering a range of topics from careers and finance to travel and leisure, along with everything in-between. When not writing, she’s always on the lookout for her next adventure. Connect with Audrey on Twitter and Google+.