Infant massage found to be one of the most effective preventative interventions in enhancing sensitivity in depressed mothers: meta-analysis

The importance of improving maternal sensitivity in depressed mothers has been documented as an important element in increasing positive outcomes for children of such mothers. This meta-analysis involved a detailed look at 10 studies concerning different interventions for mothers with depression and approaches to improve maternal sensitivity.


Interventions such as mother-infant therapy groups, home-visits and infant massage were some of the approaches which were under investigation in the study.  Infant massage was found to be “the most effective and robust technique to improve maternal sensitivity” (p. 375). These findings are highly significant in that they demonstrate a focus only on purely treating the mother for depression may not be as powerful as approaches which involve both the mother and the child. It is thought that massage therapy is beneficial to mothers in teaching them to be more observant of their babies’ and signals and therefore more responsive. This then has the knock-on effect of increasing the mother’s confidence and enhancing the bond between mother and child.  


Kersten-Alvarez, L., Hosman, M.H., Riksen-Walraven, J.M., van Doesum, K., & Hoefnagels, C. (2011). Which preventative interventions effectively enhance depressed mothers’ sensitivity? A meta-analysis. Infant Mental Health Journal, 32(3), 362–376 (2011), DOI: 10.1002/imhj.20301