Infant Massages helps babies in Mercy Hospital's NICU

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/KSPR) - Registered Nurses working in Mercy Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) must learn how to touch and handle premature babies properly.

It's important those nurses understand the impact touch can have on a prematurely born baby. Proper measures must be taken to avoid tightness and muscular or sensory issues that can later hinder development. "When they get to the point where they're needing to be sitting or on their knee's crawling and they can't get their arms forward, that's a problem," explained Physical Therapist Kesia Danner-Bowman who is also Neonatal Touch and Massage Therapist Certified (NTMTC). She said that's where infant massages become so important, the practice provides what they call a "positive touch."

"Most touch is not pleasant and a lot of it is painful," Danner-Bowman explained. "As much as we try to minimize that it just happens, even a diaper change is unpleasant." She said it's primarily because for premature babies the skin is simply not as strong or developed.

Infant massages can also save nurses time. "It's a fast-paced environment," she said of the average nurses daily routine in a hospital. "Nurses are needing to get things done, get out of there, let the baby sleep, but in order to get the baby to sleep they need something to relax them so sometimes massage is that thing."

Danner-Bowman said that means infant massages can also be the trick for fussy newborns in any home. "Colicy babies, babies that are having gastrointestinal issues, there is an abdominal massage you can do to help gastric motility."

Danner-Bowman said parents can call their doctors to ask for a referral to a physical or occupational therapist who knows infant massages. She also said it's fine to use the internet and teach yourself. "If a baby isn't preterm or they are past that term age and they are tolerating touch fine then, internet's fine."

At the end of it all, Dannner-Bowman said it's about that parent baby connection that will help relax little ones.