Massaging reduces pain in babies: Study
Doctors have found that infant massage makes them feel better during a painful or stressful event.
Mums and dads, do give your little ones a massage especially before a stressful event like vaccination. Researchers have found even more benefits of massage for babies – it makes them feel better during a painful or stressful event.
This study monitored the brain activity of 32 babies before and after a blood test. Half these babies were stroked with a soft brush beforehand. These babies showed a whopping 40% less pain activity in their brain.
Doctors say the optimal pain-reducing stroking speed was about 3cm (1inch) per second. “Parents intuitively stroke their babies at this optimal velocity,” said Dr Rebeccah Slater, professor of paediatric neuroscience at the University of Oxford.
“’If we can better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of infant massage, we can improve the advice we give to parents on how to comfort their babies,” says Dr Rebeccah.
This speed of stroking activates a class of sensory neurons in the skin called C-tactile afferents. C-tactile afferents have also been shown to reduce pain in adults.
Benefits of massage for babies
Touch-based practices have proven to be soothing to parents and babies. “Previous work has shown that touch may increase parental bonding, decrease stress for both the parents and the baby, and reduce the length of hospital stay,” says Dr Rebeccah.
The next step is to conduct this research on premature babies. Their sensory pathways are still developing and the reducing pain of medical procedures would definitely benefit these very young babies.
“We already know that positive touch – such as skin-to-skin care – makes a real difference directly to babies in neonatal care. It also helps parents to bond with their baby,” says Caroline Lee-Davey, chief executive of the premature and sick baby charity Bliss.
Bliss is funding Oxford University to do more research specifically on reducing pain in premature babies through parental touch.
“Many people do not realise just how many medical procedures a baby in neonatal care goes through during their hospital stay. Anything that can reduce a baby’s discomfort is a huge step forward in this underfunded area of research,” says Caroline.
A step-by-step guide to massaging your baby
- Warm a tiny squirt of oil or cream by rubbing it between your palms
- Very gently rub it into your baby’s skin, starting with her legs
- Work your way up
- For baby’s chest and tummy, gently place both hands on the centre of her body.
- Use your fingertips to stroke outwards in small circles
To give you an idea of how much fun this can be, check out this video of a baby absolutely loving his massage.
Source: The University of Oxford