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

Thumbnail Image
File version

Version of Record (VoR)

Lai, Melissa M
D'Acunto, Giulia
Guzzetta, Andrea
Boyd, Roslyn N
Rose, Stephen E
Fripp, Jurgen
Finnigan, Simon
Ngenda, Naoni
Love, Penny
Whittingham, Koa
Pannek, Kerstin
Ware, Robert S
Colditz, Paul B
Griffith University Author(s)
Primary Supervisor
Other Supervisors
File type(s)

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 32 weeks and 6 days 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, 12 months and 24 months 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 massage on 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.

Journal Title

BMC Pediatrics

Conference Title
Book Title




Thesis Type
Degree Program
Publisher link
Patent number
Grant identifier(s)
Rights Statement
Rights Statement

© 2016 Lai et al. Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Item Access Status

Page numbers are not for citation purposes. Instead, this article has the unique article number of 146.

Access the data
Related item(s)

Reproductive medicine not elsewhere classified


Persistent link to this record