New research into quality of infant massage classes

Better sleep for babies, less crying and improved bonding are just a few reasons that thousands of Australian parents try their hand at infant massage each year. But a new study suggests the quality of infant massage classes can vary widely, and families can miss out on many of the known benefits due to poor quality and incorrect information.

There is a lot of research about the benefits of infant massage, revealing it can help babies settle better, reduce some impacts of post-natal depression, and even lower the chance of death in some situations when a baby is unwell. But up until now, very little has been known about why infant massage seems to give babies and their parents such an extraordinary head start in life.

Changing this is a new, groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the University of Warwick Medical School in the UK. The study set out to find the underlying factors that influence the outcomes of infant massage programmes. The research team, led by Dr Angela Underdown, examined the infant massage classes that are freely available to most parents in the UK.

Part-way through the study, the investigators discovered that not all families were reaping benefits from attending their local infant massage class. Looking for a reason to explain this, the research team discovered that the training of infant massage instructors played a big role.

Dr Underdown’s team discovered that parents and babies who attended a class with an instructor trained by the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM) gained the best results, and importantly, classes run by the IAIM instructors were the only classes to include most of the components that are important in promoting the baby’s mental, social and emotional health.

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