A recent study found that a 10-minute massage with oil, performed four times per day for 28 days, resulted in less weight loss in the first week and greater weight gain after four weeks among preterm infants weighing less than 1,800 grams, compared to infants who received only the standard care for low birth weight.

The study, “Effect of Oil Massage on Growth in Preterm Neonates Less than 1,800 g: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” involved 48 babies with a birth weight of less than 1,800 grams, a gestation of less than 35 weeks and an age of less than 48 hours. The babies were randomly assigned to receive either oil massage along with standard care for low birth weight or standard care for low birth weight without massage.

For those in the massage group, each session followed the same protocol. The massage began on both shoulders, with the baby prone, starting from the neck and then moving from the upper back to the waist. Then, each arm and each leg was massaged separately in the supine position.

For each of the areas described above, the massage consisted of 20 gentle strokes. The total duration of each massage was 10 minutes, and each baby received four of these 10-minute massages per day for a period of 28 days. Every massage was performed using 2.5 milliliters/kilograms of sunflower oil.

The primary outcome measure for this study was weight gain after 28 days. Secondary outcome measures were the infants’ length and head circumference after 28 days, along with weight loss after seven days and serum triglyceride levels after 28 days.

Results of the research revealed a significantly higher weight gain after 28 days among those preterm infants in the massage group, compared with those who received standard care without massage. The study also found the babies who received the oil massage lost less weight in their first seven days than the babies who received standard care alone.

“The present study had demonstrated that the weight loss seen in preterms in the first week can be minimized by giving oil massage beginning soon after birth,” state the study’s authors. “This has not been reported earlier because most of the earlier studies enrolled babies only by the end of the first week.”


Authors: Jagdish Kumar, Amit Upadhya, Ajeet Kumar Dwivedi, Sunil Gothwal, Vijay Jaiswal and Sunny Aggarwal.

Sources: Department of Pediatrics, LLRM Medical College, Meerut, India. Originally published in 2012 in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics.