Interventions to Support Early Relationships - Infant Massage

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Angela Underdown PhD, MSc, BEd, HV, RGN
Associate professor of public health in the
early years, Warwick Medical School,
University of Warwick

Jane Barlow DPhil, FFPH
Professor of public health in the early years,
Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick


Interventions to support early relationships: mechanisms identified within infant massage programmes


This paper appeared in the Community Practitioner April 2011 Volume 84 Number 4.

The Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association (CPHVA) is the UK professional body that represents health visitors, school nurses, practice nurses, district nurses and other registered nurses who work in a primary or community health setting. With 18,500 members, it is the third largest professional nursing union and is the only union which has public health at its heart. Community Practitioner is the monthly, professional journal of the CPHVA and is sent free to members. It features all the latest news and features of interest to community nurses, along with articles on the professional, clinical and labour relations issues relevant to members.

Aim of the study

The overall aim of this study was to examine what factors influence the uptake, delivery and outcomes of infant massage programmes delivered to mother-infant dyads living in socio-economically deprived areas. This paper reports on mechanisms identified as being necessary to the successful uptake and delivery of such programmes, and the extent to which such mechanisms were provided.


Although infant massage programmes are being widely provided in the UK, the findings of this study suggest that there is a serious mismatch between need and provision, with inadequate attention being paid to the way in which disadvantaged women, who have a range of needs, are invited to take part in such services and the ensuing quality of provision.

The findings suggest the need for infant massage facilitators to be aware of the mechanisms that are necessary to effectively support parent-infant interaction and to bring about change, and for managers to be aware of the need for infant massage facilitators to have been trained by organisations that focus on infant communication rather than prioritising infant physical development and flexibility.

Infant massage programmes could be offered to maximise support for crucial early relationships (see Figure 1).

Chariss Tatman