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Backrubs Make Baby Sleep Better

Study finds massage therapy smooths out infant's sleep cycle

FRIDAY, Dec. 20, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Massage therapy may help infants and their mothers get a good night's sleep, says a new Israeli study.

The research appears in the December issue of the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

The study says massage therapy may help newborn babies develop a more regular sleep cycle, which would mean more hours of uninterrupted sleep for their mothers.

The study included about 20 mothers and their infants. They were divided into two groups. In the treatment group, mothers massaged their infants to regulate their infants' bedtimes. Mothers in the control group did not give massages to their babies.

The mothers in the treatment group were asked to give 30 minutes of bedtime message therapy to their infants for 14 days, staring at 10 to 14 days after birth. The massage therapy included touching the infant's head with one hand while lightly stroking the infant's back in a circular motion with the other hand.

To assess the effects of the massage therapy, the researchers used a sensor to measure the daytime and nighttime activity of the infants before and after the treatment and at 6 and 8 weeks of age.

The researchers also measured levels of a melatonin byproduct in the infants' urine at 6, 8 and 12 weeks of age. The secretion of melatonin is controlled by the body's internal clock.

The study found that 8-week-old infants in the massage group had activity patterns more closely aligned with their mothers. Their peak activity levels occurred during the early morning hours, while the babies in the control group were most active around midnight.

The study also found the infants in the massage group were more active in the afternoon, while infants in the control group were active around the noon hour and slept during the afternoon.

Infants in the massage group had higher nighttime melatonin production at 12 weeks of age than the infants in the control group.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about sleep habits of babies.

SOURCE: Center for the Advancement of Health, news release, December 2002
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