Stable preterm infants gain more weight and sleep less after five days of massage therapy

John N.I. Dieter, Tiffany Field, Maria Hernandez-Reif, Eugene K. Emory, Mercedes Redzepi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the effects of 5 days of massage therapy on the weight gain and sleep/wake behavior of hospitalized stable preterm infants. Methods: Massage therapy (body stroking/passive limb movement for three 15-minute periods per day) was provided to 16 preterm neonates (mean gestational age, 30.1 weeks; mean birth weight, 1359 g), and their weight gain, formula intake, kilocalories, stooling, and sleep/wake behavior were compared with a group of 16 control infants (mean gestational age, 31.1 weeks; mean birth weight, 1421 g). Results: The massage group averaged 53% greater daily weight gain than the control group. The massage group spent less time sleeping at the end of 5 treatment days than the control group and more time in the drowsy state. Conclusions: Healthy, low-risk preterm infants gained more weight and slept less with just 5 days of massage, in contrast to 10 days in previous studies. Results support the continued use of massage as a cost-effective therapy for medically stable preterm infants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-411
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of pediatric psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavior
  • Massage therapy
  • Preterm infants
  • Weight gain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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