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What Are Some of the Benefits of Infant Massage?

Jennifer Pitonyak, PhD, OTR/L, SCFES, CIMI

November 17, 2014

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Question

What are some of the benefits of infant massage?

Answer

There are many diverse benefits to infant massage.

Physiologically.  There is evidence to show that infant massage improves digestion, circulation, gastrointestinal, and hormonal function.  Massage also has relaxation benefits.

Physically.  There is evidence that infant massage is related to changes in muscle tone and body awareness.

Social-emotional.  If we look socially and emotionally, there is a relationship with engagement, bonding and attachment, increased self-esteem, acceptance, as well as respect and trust in relationships.

Cognitively.  There is a relationship with understanding cause-and-effect type of interactions and increased attention span.

Communication.  Infant massage has benefits for pre-speech skills like eye contact, gazing, listening, turn-taking, and ability to read infant cues.  

Self-help. If we look at the self-help benefits, infant massage can benefit oral awareness for feeding.  It can benefit soothing to sleep, relaxation, and stress relief. 

Editor’s note: This Ask the Expert was adapted from the course, ‘Infant Massage: An Intervention for the Occupation of Family Social Participation’ that is available in text, video and audio course formats.

 


jennifer pitonyak

Jennifer Pitonyak, PhD, OTR/L, SCFES, CIMI

Jennifer Pitonyak has over 14 years of clinical experience as an occupational therapist in a diversity of practice settings, including early intervention and the neonatal intensive care unit.  She holds specialty certification in feeding, eating, and swallowing from AOTA, and is a Certified Infant Massage Instructor.  She is currently on the faculty at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, where in addition to teaching, she collaborates with community partners to develop occupational therapy programs for infants and families.  She recently completed doctoral studies in health policy with research on the social and contextual factors that impact breastfeeding duration.  Her clinical and research interests include infant and family mental health.  


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