The power of infant massage

Massage therapy isn't just for stressed adults; it calms fussy babies

Infant massage in NICU

For centuries, massage techniques have been helping people manage stress and alleviate pain. Soon after a massage begins, babies like little Quadarius are quiet and calm.

Scenarios like that are now making their way into Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) and Pediatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) at hospitals — and with good reason. 

 Infant massage can promote relaxation, increase circulation, and much more. Most importantly, it can help mom and dad bond with their baby.

 Nothing else like it

The power of human touch is unmatched. It’s a need of every human being — especially for our littlest patients. Incorporating infant massage into the ICU routine was an idea generated by a staff member who was aware of its great benefits and outcomes.

“It’s amazing how powerful the simplest touch can be,” says nurse Beth Vankuiken of the Fairview Ridges Hospital NICU in Burnsville. “As soon as we begin the massage, you can physically see the baby start to calm and relax.”

Certified in infant massage, the Fairview Ridges’ NICU staff starts with massaging Quadarius’ upper back.

“Each massage is individualized and we follow the baby’s cues,” Beth adds. “You don’t need to do a full body massage; you can just focus on their legs, arms, or back.”

 More than just to relax  

Babies born prematurely or who have complex conditions may have difficulty gaining weight or sleeping, and massage is proven to help.

“It also plays an important role in cognitive development in ill babies,” says Fairview Ridges NICU Patient Care Supervisor Juanita Royle. “There’s a correlation between touch and brain stimulation.”

Massage can also ease digestion problems, relieve colic — the list goes on.

“Parents that have babies with gas issues or upset tummies have found massage can provide some relief,” Beth says. “You’d begin with massaging the tummy and move in a motion similar to the digestive tract. And this can be applied to a baby of any age.”

All babies need lots of skin-to-skin time, and what better way to get that than a massage? 

Bonding with baby

Babies aren’t the only ones who benefit from infant massage.

It can help reduce a mom's stress levels as they become more in tune to their baby’s needs. It can also help deepen the parental bond, and is something both mom and dad can take part in.   

“Before families are discharged, I ask if they’d like to learn a few of the techniques,” Beth says. “It’s such a useful tool, plus it’s easy to learn.”

Parents feel empowered, competent, and confident they can help their child relax when they’re upset.

“We encourage all parents to give it a try," Beth says, "as we want our parents to be successful.”

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