Pre-term infant research in neonatal intensive care units at the Hammersmith Hospital in London, show it’s possible to detect objective hormonal changes following regular periods of baby massage.
- Those babies massaged averaging a 47% more weight gain per day, against those who weren’t, even though both study groups did not differ on formula intake in volume or calories.
- Those babies massaged were awake and active a greater percentage of time during the sleep/wake behaviour observations.
- Those babies massaged showed more mature habituation, orientation, motor and range of state behaviour and on average were hospitalized 6 days less than the non massaged babies.
This information was obtained through scientific observation and is supported by other supplemental studies reporting ‘greater weight gain, motor activity and alertness’ in similar massaged preterm infants.
Eight months on these same babies still showed a weight gain advantage and were performing better on the Bayley Mental and Motor Scales. Superior growth and development thought to result from better parent infant interaction facilitated by the babies being massaged and more responsive during the newborn period.
These and other studies show the benefits of massage on healthy preterm infants.
Studies of regular baby massage upon fetal distress include;
Cocaine exposed neonates;
These babies show perinatal complications, neurological and behavioural abnormalities. Central nervous system deficits indicative of fetal distress include, lower vagal tone, increased heart rates and lower Agpar scores.
Behavioural studies show stress behaviours that include tremors, restlessness, irritability, hypertonia, and abnormal reflexes.
Although best to eliminate infants who had also been exposed to alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, studies show 85% of drug exposed neonates are polydrug exposed. Because of the exposure in these infants to other drugs as well as cocaine, these findings can well apply to some other drug exposed babies.
Despite this however, in this study, cocaine was the primary drug used.
Two groups of fifteen medically stable babies equivalent in age, birth weight,intensive care unit duration and current weight were observed.
All continued receiving standard nursery care and parents visited, held and fed their babies, with massage therapy provided for half the group.
In short the massaged infants showed a 28% greater daily weight gain than the non-massaged, although again the groups did not differ on calorie or volume intake. The massaged babies experienced fewer postnatal complications and had more mature motor behaviours, fewer stress behaviours and better orientation after only 10 days of 15 minutes a day, baby massage treatment.
Bearing in mind AIDS is now among the top ten causes of death in children from 1-4 years old, the results of another study on the benefits of baby massage on preterm neonates testing HIV positive is also extremely encouraging.
In brief, in the absence of compensatory treatment provided by baby-massage. exposure to HIV can contribute towards
developmental delay and a failure to thrive as early as the newborn period.
On the positive side its clinically proven, that deterioration in HIV exposed newborns, can be reduced with baby massage therapy. Weight gain is greater with significantly fewer stress behaviours, as compared to the non massaged group. The mothers of HIV exposed babies also encouraged to massage their babies showed lower anxiety levels, their anxieties related to their despair at their babies condition.
Adolescent Depressed Mothers
In another study of 40 full term babies 1-3 months old born to adolescent depressed mothers, 20 babies were massaged over a six week period and twenty were held and rocked for the same period.
Again the massaged babies were shown to be more alert and active. Crying and salivary cortisol levels decreased. The babies moved more and gained more weight with no increase in their formula intake. Improved temperamental dimensions included; emotionality, sociability, and soothability. Also noted was an increase in serotonin.
Cerebral palsy, also referred to as CP, is a term used to describe a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination and refers to any one of a number of neurological disorders that appear in infancy or early childhood and may permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination
It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; or during infancy. These disorders are not caused by problems in the muscles or nerves themselves, but through faulty development or damage to motor areas in the brain which disrupt the brain's ability to adequately control movement and posture.
Cerebral palsy doesn’t always cause profound disabilities. While one child with severe cerebral palsy might be unable to walk and need extensive, lifelong care, another with mild cerebral palsy might be only slightly awkward and require no special assistance.
The early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age. The most common are a lack of muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements (ataxia); stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes (spasticity); walking with one foot or leg dragging; walking on the toes, a crouched gait, or a “scissored” gait; and muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy.
If your baby’s muscles and joints are stiff, floppy, or both in different areas of the body, and / or at different times, massaging and moving them gently in the right way, can bring about some remarkable improvements.
At the very least baby massage, if practiced regularly, will improve the quality of your child’s everyday life, and at most may restore the correct ‘tonus’ to the muscles, free the joints and allow a normal pattern of movement to resume. See video clips ‘special needs’
"Of all things the physician should be good at rubbing, for rubbing tightens a joint that is to loose and loosens a joint that is to tight"
Hippocrates 'Corpus Hippocraticum'
Only movement can improve the movement of our joints there is no ‘magic pill’.
Without movement the muscles and the joints become stiffer. See video clips - Max's Story
The exact cause or causes of Down syndrome are not known.
- Down syndrome is a chromosomal accident. It is not caused by anything the parents may have done before or during pregnancy.
- The syndrome can occur in any family.
- Babies with Down syndrome can be born to mothers of any age, but it occurs more often if the mother is older.
- Just because you have had a baby with Down syndrome does not mean you will have another baby with Down syndrome, however the risk is greater.
- Children with Down Syndrome are just like everyone else
- Sometimes however they may just need a little more help
- Children with Down Syndrome can feel happy or sad or left out
- They make good friends with other children
- Children with Down Syndrome learn best by looking
- They may take a little longer to ‘learn’
- Most go to regular schools
There are tests that can be done during pregnancy that can tell you if you are having a baby with Down syndrome (blood tests, ultrasound tests and tests of the fluid around your developing baby) but of course these are probably not relevant if you’ve already decided that either way you will keep the baby.
Babies with Down Syndrome are among the most affectionate of children. As babies with Down Syndrome are usually extremely flexible, and often a bit ‘floppy’, a firmer touch with cool hands can help more to ‘tighten up’ their muscles and joints.
Supervised positions and movements that encourage strengthening rather than stretching are also advisable.
(See Developmental Baby Massage DVD)
Prada-Willi syndrome is a complex genetic disorder, which is present from birth. Its main characteristics are:
- excessive appetite
- low muscle tone
- emotional instability
- immature physical development
- learning disabilities (sometimes very mild)
Where developmental delay is evident baby massage can have a considerable effect upon restoring normal development.
As babies with Prada Willi are sometimes ‘floppy’ a firmer touch with cool hands can help to ‘tighten up’ the muscles and joints.
Supervised positions and movements that encourage strengthening rather than stretching is advisable.
(See Developmental Baby Massage DVD)
Infant and baby massage can also help those families whose infants are terminally ill. This can improve the quality of the remainder of every day life for the child and enable the parents to remain in touch with their child and communicate positive loving feelings.
Always obtain the consent of your physician and work with a recommended or acknowledged ‘Baby Massage’ teacher if you’re baby has special needs.
Any advice given in this ‘special needs’ section is not meant as a substitute for conventional medical treatment.
Always consult with your physician if you feel that there may be a problem.
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Max - Diagnosed Moderate Cerebral Palsy Spastic Hypotonic
At 14 and a half months Max was unable to sit. His hands, arms and legs were bent and stiff and when held standing his knees turned inwards, his legs buckled and his feet distorted. He had a rounded back and very moderate head control.
Max is now nearly three years of age and for the past 18 months Nina and Bert, Max’s parents, have been working with Peter Walker to help Max become more flexible and to try to help him back into a more normal pattern of development.
Max can now lay comfortably on his tummy, lifting his head with his arms extended. He can sit independently in the first sitting position, and can sit independently in the second. Max has good head control and is now learning to stand upright in a normal fashion.
Max can now sit comfortably and independently in both sitting positions (tailor pose and between his feet) he claps with open hands and is beginning to use his hands well. He has started to go from sitting between his feet to laying forward on his tummy, and from his tummy to back sitting between his feet.
Max can crawl well and roll and can go from sitting to standing with support without 'scissoring' (crossing his legs and feet).
We are now working to get Max to take his first steps without scissoring.
So far this has been an amazing journey and Max has showed us so many things which we hope to be able to pass on to parents with children like Max.
Below you will find clips on Max’s progress. You are welcome to follow his development by viewing these video clips and also get involved with Peter in the Blog.
These clips will be updated shortly with cuts from a new documentary film 'Max's Story' and a DVD showing his progress from birth to now.
More about Max
A short clip below showing basic movements to improve and maintain hip and shoulder flexibility.