Study shows Infant Massage Class Helps Substance-Addicted Mothers

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), 18 women die in the U.S. every day from prescription painkiller overdoes, totaling up to more than 6,500 women each year.

The CDC report also states “deaths from prescription painkiller overdose among women have increased more than 400 percent since 1999, compared to 265 percent among men.”

Further, pregnant women and mothers are increasingly turning to painkillers such as opioids; in fact, every 25 minutes an infant is born suffering from opioid withdrawal, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Recent research indicates infant massage classes could have a positive effect on women struggling with substance abuse.

Parenting Enhancement

A parenting class that included lessons on infant massage resulted in significantly reduced parenting stress, as well as decreased symptoms of depression, among substance-addicted mothers who were actively engaged in outpatient rehabilitation, according to recent research.

The study, “Blended infant massage-parenting enhancing program on recovering substance-abusing mothers’ parenting stress, self-esteem, depression, maternal attachment and mother-infant interaction,” involved 138 substance-addicted mothers engaged in outpatient rehabilitation, along with their infants.

The mother-infant pairs were randomly assigned to either the Infant Massage-Parenting Enhancement Program (IMPEP), the Parenting Enhancement Program (PEP) alone or a control group with standard parenting resources.

Those who were assigned to either the IMPEP or PEP attended a weekly class for four weeks in a row, during weeks two through five of the study. Those in the IMPEP group were taught how to perform infant massage techniques and practiced these techniques under the supervision of a certified practitioner.

There was also time set aside to answer questions on proper child care and to teach the mothers games and songs to stimulate their infants and boost mother-infant communication.

The mother-infant pairs assigned to the PEP group received the same instruction as those in the IMPEP group, minus the focus on infant massage.

Study Outcome

The outcome measures for this study included the Observation Checklist on Maternal-Infant Interaction, along with structured interviews and the following self-administered questionnaires: Abidin Parenting Stress Index, Beck Depression Inventory, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and Muller’s Maternal Attachment Inventory.

These assessments were made during week one of the study, prior to the start of the IMPEP and PEP classes. The same evaluations took place during week six, which was the week after the classes had ended; the assessments were made once more at week 12.

Infant Massage Decreases Stress

Results of the research revealed that the mothers in both the IMPEP and PEP groups experienced significant decreases in parenting stress, as well as decreased symptoms of depression compared to the control group at week 12.

However, only the mothers in the IMPEP group experienced improvements in both the psychological and physical measures of parenting stress.

Related article: “[The Opioid Epidemic] This is How Massage Might Provide Relief from the Despair of Drug Abuse.”

The study’s authors were Luz S. Porter, Brian O. Porter, Virginia McCoy, Vivian Bango-Sanchez, Bonnie Kissel, Marjorie Williams and Sachin Nunnewar. Sources: College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Department of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Infant Massage-Parenting Enhancement Program, Robert Stemple School of Public Health, Florida International University; Infant Massage-Parenting Enhancement Program, University of Miami; Memorial Regional Hospital; AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

This study was originally published in December 2015 in Asian Nursing Research, 9(4), 318-327.

If you enjoyed reading this MASSAGE Magazine online article, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for more articles about massage news, techniques, self-care, research, business and more, delivered monthly. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for additional unique content, including product announcements and special offers.