Infant massage helps to reduce levels of jaundice in newborns: study

A study from Japan has shown how baby massage can help reduce levels of jaundice in otherwise healthy full term newborn babies.

The research involved 20 babies born with no complications who received a daily massage of 15-20 minutes twice daily. The control group of 22 babies received phototherapy. Researchers monitored stool frequency and jaundice levels via a jaundice metre and blood samples.

The treatment group were found to have much more frequent passing of stools than the control group on the first and second days of treatment. The researchers concluded that the massage may help to stimulate infants in assisting the passing of meconium in stools which has the benefit of aiding the reduction of jaundice.

Massage helps in increasing blood flow and stimulation of the lymphatic system, aiding in the collection and excretion of waste products from the body. The stimulation of the vagus nerve also increases gastric fluids, aiding in digestion and increasing appetite. Babies were then more likely to nurse more frequently.  Massage also helps decrease the stress hormone cortisol. As a result the babies in the treatment group were found to have lower levels of jaundice than the control group.

The results of the study are significant in that jaundice is a common problem which affects more than 50% of full term infants and the majority of preterm infants. Furthermore, treatments for jaundice such as phototherapy can cause side effects such as dehydration, rashes and diarrhoea. Mothers and babies can also experience anxiety caused by forced separation when a baby needs to undergo such treatment.  Clearly, treatment by massage does not bring with it these side effects and has the added benefit of strengthening the bond between mother and baby.


Chen, J., Sadakata, M., Ishida, M., Sekizuka, N., Sayama, M. (2011). Baby massage ameliorates neonatal jaundice in full-tem newborn infants. Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine, 223 (2), 97-102.