Good news for sleepless new parents—research shows that massage helps newborn babies sleep more and cry less.
Massage also lowers stress levels in infants and helps the bonding process with the parent, it was claimed.
The study found that infants under six months who received massage also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared to babies who had not.
A team of researchers from Warwick Medical School and the Institute of Education at the University of Warwick looked at nine massage studies covering 598 babies under six months old.
Babies were massaged by parents who had been trained by health professionals and the infants who received massage were found to have beneficial effects.
One of the studies found that massage could affect the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, helping babies' sleeping patterns.
Another showed that babies in an orphanage who usually had little tactile stimulation grew faster, were less ill and had less clinical visits when they were given massage, made eye contact with and spoken to.
The researchers also found that massage built better relationships between babies and mothers who had postnatal depression.
Angela Underdown, who led the research, said: "Given the apparent effect of infant massage on stress hormones, it is not surprising to find some evidence of an effect on sleep and crying.
"It gives parents and babies intimate time. We haven't said that it should be on offer to everyone, but massage does no harm, and it improves a number of factors. It seems to have some effect on sleep and relaxation.
"We looked at babies under six months because that's when parents and babies are forming their attachments and babies are forming their sleep patterns."
Life Style Extra, November 8, 2006