PREMM: Preterm early massage by the mother: Protocol of a randomised controlled trial of massage therapy in very preterm infants

Melissa M. Lai, Giulia D'Acunto, Andrea Guzzetta, Roslyn N. Boyd, Stephen E. Rose, Jurgen Fripp, Simon Finnigan, Naoni Ngenda, Penny Love, Koa Whittingham, Kerstin Pannek, Robert S. Ware, Paul B. Colditz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Preterm infants follow an altered neurodevelopmental trajectory compared to their term born peers as a result of the influence of early birth, and the altered environment. Infant massage in the preterm infant has shown positive effects on weight gain and reduced length of hospital stay. There is however, limited current evidence of improved neurodevelopment or improved attachment, maternal mood or anxiety.The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of infant massage performed by the mother in very preterm (VPT) infants.Effects on the infant will be assessed at the electrophysiological, neuroradiological and clinical levels. Effects on maternal mood, anxiety and mother-infant attachment will also be measured. Methods/Design: A randomised controlled trial to investigate the effect of massage therapy in VPT infants. Sixty VPT infants, born at 28 to 32weeks and 6days gestational age, who are stable, off supplemental oxygen therapy and have normal cranial ultrasounds will be recruited and randomised to an intervention (infant massage) group or a control (standard care) group. Ten healthy term born infants will be recruited as a reference comparison group. The intervention group will receive standardised massage therapy administered by the mother from recruitment, until term equivalent age (TEA). The control group will receive care as usual (CAU). Infants and their mothers will be assessed at baseline, TEA, 12months and 24months corrected age (CA), with a battery of clinical, neuroimaging and electrophysiological measures, as well as structured questionnaires, psychoanalytic observations and neurodevelopmental assessments. Discussion: Optimising preterm infant neurodevelopment is a key aim of neonatal research, which could substantially improve long-term outcomes and reduce the socio-economic impact of VPT birth. This study has the potential to give insights into the mother-baby relationship and any positive effects of infant massageon neurodevelopment. An early intervention such as massage that is relatively easy to administer and could alter the trajectory of preterm infant brain development, holds potential to improve neurodevelopmental outcomes in this vulnerable population. Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: ACTRN12612000335897. Date registered: 22/3/2012.

Original languageEnglish
Article number146
JournalBMC Pediatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 27 2016


  • Attachment
  • Infant massage
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Preterm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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