Skeptic News: ASA rules on baby massage

20120703-230906.jpgThe Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has ruled on the International Association of Infant Massages claims of benefit on their website.

The IAIM claimed that infant massage could boost an infants immune system and that it could help digestion as well as helping with language development, memory and concentration.

The complainant John Stabler, of Cardiff Skeptics, scoured Cochrane reviews on the benefits of infant massage and discovered that these claims are not backed up by scientific evidence. You can read about this in more detail on the ThinkRant blog.

the ASA has ordered that the IAIM withdraw the statements from their websites and promotional materials.

While the practice of infant massage supported by the claims may not seem too pernicious it is still important that claims of benefits are backed up by scientific evidence.

Least consumers be mislead by promises of benefits that seem too good to be true.

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0 Responses to Skeptic News: ASA rules on baby massage

  1. Nikki Lee says:

    Cochrane reviews look at many studies on the same topic. If there aren’t a lot of studies, then no strong statement from Cochrane.

    I have a study showing that pediatric massage does help with constipation. The Chinese have refined technics of infant massage that have been developed over 5,000 years.

  2. John Stabler says:

    Nikki: a single study, if you want to link to it, may be very interesting in deciding where to focus research. However, a single study is not sufficient when making objective claims about benefits of baby massage, especially considering that the few studies I have come across are very small and have not been replicated.

    The fact that the Chinese have been developing massage for 5000 years is immaterial to whether it actually provides the benefits I have contested. it does, however, raise the question of how there is so little evidence for efficacy if it has been going so long…

  3. Nikki Lee says:

    John:

    A single study isn’t powerful enough; and still has value.

    The evidence behind massage for premature infants shows repeatedly that massage increases their weight gain, and reduces sepsis (in the very low birth weight infant); it also helps with bone mineral density.

    The hypotheses behind the evidence are that massage increases oxytocin levels (thus increasing gut absorption of nutrients), reduces metabolic demand, increases vagal stimulation, and increases levels of growth hormones.

    I just got this bulletin from the National Institutes of Health.
    Here’s the link:

    I’ve cut and pasted a few paragraphs:

    “Massage therapy has been noted to relax the nervous system by slowing heart rate and blood pressure. Stress and pain hormones are also decreased by massage, reducing pain and enhancing immune function,” says Dr. Tiffany Field, who heads a touch research institute at the University of Miami Medical School. Much of her NIH-funded research focuses on the importance of massage for pregnant women and infants. Some of her studies suggest that massage may improve weight gain and immune system function in preterm infants.

    A study published earlier this year looked at how massage affects muscles at the molecular level. The findings suggest that kneading eases sore muscles after exercise by turning off genes associated with inflammation and turning on genes that help muscles heal.

    A recent NIH-supported study found that an hour-long “dose” of Swedish massage therapy once a week was optimal for knee pain from osteoarthritis, especially when practical matters like time, labor and convenience were considered. Other research suggests that massage therapy is effective in reducing and managing chronic low-back pain, which affects millions of Americans.”

    Dr. Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg from Sweden discovered that problem 4 and 5 year old children in day care were calmer after receiving massages, and the calming effects persisted for a year after the period of massages was ended.

    There is a lovely research study showing that depressed mothers had their depression lift and an improvement in their parenting after learning to massage their babies.

    I have a whole bibliography on massage. I’ve given presentations to healthcare professionals about benefits of infant massage in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and for term infants.

    I’d be happy to send you the bibliography.

    warmly,
    Nikki

  4. Nikki Lee says:

    For some reason, the link didn’t show up in my email.

    Here it is as plain text.

    http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Jul2012/Feature2

  5. Nikki Lee says:

    John:

    I am curious about where you searched for information about infant massage benefits.

    I just did a Google Scholar search; there are 16,300 results.

    warmly,
    Nikki

  6. John Stabler says:

    Nikki:

    “A single study isn’t powerful enough; and still has value.”

    I never said a single study has no value. In fact, I made the point that studies can help with determining where to do further research.

    “The evidence behind massage for premature infants shows repeatedly that massage increases their weight gain, and reduces sepsis (in the very low birth weight infant); it also helps with bone mineral density.
    The hypotheses behind the evidence are that massage increases oxytocin levels (thus increasing gut absorption of nutrients), reduces metabolic demand, increases vagal stimulation, and increases levels of growth hormones.”

    I have already read Tiffany Fields’ research that you are referring to. I have an opinion on that research, but it is completely irrelevant because it does not address the claims I have highlighted in my complaints to the ASA. If you are interested in providing evidence for the claims that both I and the ASA judged to be unsupported then please do so.

    Quoting the pieces of the article you quoted:

    “Some of her studies suggest that massage may improve weight gain and immune system function in preterm infants.”

    Preterm infants are not the same as most of the infants that IAIM instructors are dealing with. Also notice the word “may”. Have you researched the studies, their methodology and sample sizes? They are not sufficient to make the claim that infant massage “boosts the immune system”. If you believe they do then I have a whole bunch of other studies that should convince you that psychics are real and homeopathy works.

    Perhaps you should also be a little more skeptical of what you read. Not everything on the Internet is true. To demonstrate this, I will quote part of the same article which you didn’t copy/paste:

    “A study published earlier this year looked at how massage affects muscles at the molecular level. The findings suggest that kneading eases sore muscles after exercise by turning off genes associated with inflammation and turning on genes that help muscles heal.”

    Massage can turn genes on and off? Are you serious?

    Your last comment was the most fun. I’d like to demonstrate the fallacy you committed by suggesting you search Google scholar for “placebo benefits” (456,000 results) or “prayer benefits” (176,000 results). Your point is?

  7. Nikki Lee says:

    There is enough evidence that many intensive care nurseries in the US have staff that are certified in infant massage.

    There is enough evidence that the US health agency, the National Institutes of Health are endorsing infant massage, and massage for grown-ups too. I sent you the link. It is difficult to get a government to endorse anything, so the fact that NIH quotes Dr. Fields about babies receiving immune system benefits from massage is significant.

    Benefits to premature infants do not magically disappear once the baby reaches its due date.

    There will never be enough evidence to convince you.

    warmly,
    Nikki

  8. John Stabler says:

    Ah, the old “you’re closed-minded” gambit.

    Again, you’ve done nothing to address my original complaints. Some agency endorsing baby massage does not mean that there is sufficient evidence that it does what the IAIM claims. If such evidence existed then I’m sure they could have provided it to the ASA and they wouldn’t have needed to remove them from the website.

    By the way, you’re committing another fallacy by claiming something is true because an authority (NIH or a doctor) endorses it. The fact that IC nurses have been trained in massage does not mean it works.

  9. Nikki Lee says:

    I’ve given you evidence that doesn’t seem to have any impact.

    I expected that you would have asked me for my bibliography. There is always the possibility that you could learn something.

    warmly,
    Nikki

  10. Nikki Lee says:

    Can’t post articles. But here’s abstracts.

    Nurses would not be trained in effective techniques; institutions can’t afford it. In the States, practitioner liability for care is a big issue.

    Just because people do it, and they like it, and it doesn’t hurt, and it helps, doesn’t mean that we should believe it.

    Neonatal Netw. 2003 May-Jun;22(3):39-45.
    Premature infant massage in the NICU.
    Beachy JM.
    Source
    Children’s Hospital Newborn Special Care Unit at Docters West, Columbus, Ohio 43228, USA. BeachyJodi@juno.com
    Abstract
    Infant massage therapy is an inexpensive tool that should be utilized as part of the developmental care of the preterm infant. Nurses have been hesitant to begin massage therapy for fear of overstimulating the infant and because there has been insufficient research to prove its safety. Recent research, however, has shown that the significant benefits of infant massage therapy far outweigh the minimal risks. When infant massage therapy is properly applied to preterm infants, they respond with increased weight gains, improved developmental scores, and earlier discharge from the hospital. Parents of the preterm infant also benefit because infant massage enhances bonding with their child and increases confidence in their parenting skills. This article discusses the benefits and risks of massage for preterm infants and their families and explains how to implement massage therapy in the neonatal intensive care setting.

    “Dr. Lori Shook, professor of pediatrics at the UK College of Medicine and interim medical director of the NICU at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, initiated the program after a multi-disciplinary team of NICU staff paid a site visit to a well-known NAS treatment unit at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

    “Having our nurses trained in infant massage allows us to provide more holistic care to our patients,” Shook said. “Having our nurses certified to teach parents infant massage gives them a way to bond with their baby as well as participate in their care. It’s amazing to watch a baby tense with drug withdrawal just relax and get focused. Touch is a powerful healing tool.”

  11. Nikki Lee says:

    Dang….this program took out the link to the article that includes the quote from Dr. Lori Shook.

    Here’s another attempt at that link:

    http://uknow.uky.edu/content/uk-nicu-nurses-deliver-healing-touch

  12. John Stabler says:

    Nikki. I’m going to have to ask you some simple questions:

    1. What exactly do you think my position on baby massage is?

    2. What does some research on weight gain in preterm infants have to do with the claims the IAIM have had to remove due to my complaint to the ASA?

    3. Do you know what scientific evidence is?

    4. Do you understand that the scientific method requires rigorous investigation and evidence before bold claims about positive benefits can be made?

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