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Premature baby boys thrive on massage

Premature baby boys thrive on massage

Massage therapy helps premature baby boys cope with their intensive care environment but not girls.

Newborns born prematurely have to undergo the discomfort of treatments like mechanical ventilation, medical procedures and separation from their mothers.

For some even a nappy change may be a stressful event because of their immature autonomic nervous system (ANS) which controls their stress response.

A study in the School of Nursing at the University of Louisville found massage therapy that involved moderate pressure and stroking of the infants soft tissue, arms and legs, increased the heart rate in baby boys but not the baby girls.

“This finding suggests that massage enhanced development of the ANS in male preterm infants and may improve preterm infant response to stressful events” said the researchers.

“We were surprised to learn the differences in the impact of massage therapy on preterm boys and girls,” researcher Sandra Smith added.

“Boys who received massage therapy demonstrated increased heart rate variability, but the therapy did not seem to affect HRV in girls”.

Ms Smith said future research is needed with a larger sample of preterm infants to understand how massage therapy affects ANS development, and to determine the mechanisms by which massage The study is published inEarly Human Development.

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