Neonatal massage has been the most helpful for a variety of reasons. I found the Neonatal Touch and Massage to be easy to demonstrate and teach to parents. The benefits are seen by parents and staff on the baby relaxation, calmness, decreased stress and preparation to feed were obvious and many remarked about how much the baby enjoyed it. Babies with NAS were massaged, and considerable relaxation and decreased flexion tone and stress were evident. Neonatologists have inquired about getting certified in the Neonatal Touch and Massage and I was pleased to pass on information on how to accomplish the goal. Containment holds and facilitated tuck are a good start but the NTMC is the next step to improve so many areas for a baby such as feeding, weight gain, digestion and decreasing bilirubin and waste, decreasing stress and pain, improved brain maturation immune function, temperature regulation, bone density, neurological development, muscle tone, bonding between parent and baby and sleep, and decreased lengths of stay. I am grateful to be certified and am empowered to help NICU babies more than before I was certified.
Lynn Funk, OTR/L, CNT, NTMTC, CEIM
When attending the Neonatal Touch and Massage course two years ago, one of the concepts that interested me the most was swaddled bathing. Prior to learning this concept, all of my babies were dunked in a bath bucket or scrubbed down on a chucks pad while screaming their heads off. This is how I was taught to bathe babies when I started nursing six years ago, so to learn that I could do it in a manner that is peaceful and neurodevelopmentally friendly was very intriguing to me. I brought this back to my unit and personally began doing this on all my babies. I would do a swaddled sponge bath for my kids on respiratory support and submerge the bigger, more stable babies in a basin while swaddled. I noticed an incredible difference in the response of the infants during their bath times. There was no more flailing and screaming. There was now relaxation and joy. It was not too long after the group of us got back from the course that the skin care committee in our unit was working to change our policy for bathing. This included method and time frame for baths. The skin committee in our unit, also known as the SWAT team, rolled out swaddled baths to our entire unit and even got Turtle Tubs for each community in our unit so they were always available. I helped to educate the staff along-side them so this concept could be rolled out seamlessly. We have been doing swaddled baths in our unit now for well over a year and it is loved by all the babies and even the nurses. My favorite part of completing swaddled baths is doing them with families and teaching them so they can do them at home as well. Just the last shift I worked I taught a single dad who was in our unit with his first baby how to complete this with his baby suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The dad and the baby both loved the bath and I know this will make a huge difference for both of them as they are discharged home on their own.
Lyndsie Cangelosi, RN, NTMNC
To teach families massage is a beautiful thing to witness. I have had many families let me know post discharge how meaningful this activity was for them at home as well. To watch parents anxiety/stress/demeanors ease, to see the bond and increased comfort parents have with handling their babies as well as the increased feeding readiness has been truly transformational for myself, our parents and the staff. And not to mention tummy massage and helping our babies poop without use of glycerin chips! I have staff ask me now for those babies to teach parents to do the stomach massage or to complete myself in treatment.
Another area massage has been particularly useful in is with our NAS babies and teaching their caregivers the same techniques. To have a very agitated baby calm with use of the massage interventions and to watch the caregivers realize another tool in their toolkit to calming their infant.
Keri Parker, DPT, NTMTC
After certification, I started to incorporate my leanings with the NAS population. These babies demonstrate muscle tightness, irritability and CNS hypersensitivity during their stay. Also, the parents (mothers) most of them are in rehab and unable to visit them regularly. By incorporating neonatal touch and massage I have seen decrease in tone, increase in ease of falling asleep and maintaining longer/ deeper sleep patterns. Infants demonstrate increased ability to cope, decreased dependence on NNS/pacifier. It has improved their general tone and decreased GI issues.
Jyutika Zope, OTR/L, NTMTC
I was especially gratified when I was able to use these skills to teach a mother how to help soothe her baby. She was a particularly anxious mother and her baby was in the NICU for NAS and thus was irritable and difficult to console. After watching the massage video and talking about the process, I helped her get her baby undressed and positioned for his massage. I could see that her hands were shaky as she rubbed oil on them, but with her mother helping to calm the baby (quietly singing “Kumbaya” and offering the pacifier), and with my encouragement, the mother was able to give her baby a massage that had him move from a crying, irritable state into a relaxed, light sleep state. As the massage progressed through the various areas, mom joined Grandma in quietly singing. The baby slept peacefully. And I wiped a tear from my eye. Really.
Being able to teach this mother how to massage her newborn was a highlight of my NICU practice. In addition to the positive effects immediately felt by the baby, the massage enabled the mother to increase her confidence in caring for her baby and reinforced the multi-generational bonds that will support the baby’s development long after he leaves the NICU.
Moving forward, neonatal massage will always be a part of my therapy practice. I am thankful for the skills learned in the certification process and for the reinforcement of them during the recertification process. Without a doubt, this is the best continuing education process I have participated in over my 30-year career.
Christina Hough, DPT, CNT, NTMTC