A recent study showed that teen mothers who massaged their infants for two months showed a significant decrease in depression, along with enhanced physical contact with their infants and an improved perception of their infants’ temperaments.

The study, “Outcomes of a Massage Intervention on Teen Mothers: A Pilot Study,” involved 25 African-American teen mothers, with a mean age of about 16 years. These new mothers were randomly assigned to either the intervention group or the control group.

The final analysis for the study was based on the 15 participants who completed both baseline and follow-up measures—eight in the control group and seven in the intervention group. Infants included in the data analysis ranged in age from 1 to 3 months, with most of them falling between the ages of 1.5 and 2.5 months.

Outcome measures for this study included the Parenting Stress Index, the Maternal Confidence Questionnaire and the Questionnaire about Physical Contact, which addresses a person’s thoughts and feelings about physical contact. Assessments occurred at baseline and again approximately two to two-and-a-half months later.

Following the baseline assessments, teen mothers in the intervention group participated in about 30 minutes of one-on-one infant-massage training, using the Baby’s First Massage curriculum, created by Teresa Ramsey. Subjects learned the massage strokes on their own infants whenever possible.

These new mothers also received a book with diagrams of the massage strokes and all information discussed during the training session, as well as a 3-ounce bottle of massage oil. They were instructed to massage their infants daily for two months. Subjects in the control group were offered the same training after the study had ended.

According to the researchers, teen mothers in the infant-massage group reported more positive and comfortable feelings about physical contact after the intervention, as compared to teen mothers in the control group.

Participants who were trained in infant massage also had significantly lower depression scores than teen mothers without the massage training at the two-month follow-up assessment.

In addition, there was a significant difference in perceived child temperament among teen mothers in the intervention group as compared to the control group. Those who had learned and practiced the infant massage indicated a significantly greater “adaptive temperament” in their infants.

“The results suggest that the massage intervention had a positive impact on mothers’ current level of comfort with physical contact, maternal depression and maternal perceptions of a more adaptive child,” state the study’s authors. “[This training] shows potential as a low-cost supplement to current teen mother education in high schools.”

Authors: Krista L. Oswalt, Fred J. Biasini, Lynda Law Wilson and Sylvie Mrug.

Sources: University of Alabama at Birmingham. Originally published in Pediatric Nursing (September/October 2009) 35 (5): 284-289.