Infant Massage for Birth Defects

Copyright © 2014 Liddle Kidz Foundation Infant and Children’s Pediatric Massage

While the majority of babies born in the United States are healthy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in thirty-three or roughly 3% of babies are birth with a birth defect. Many of these defects are treatable with medications, or surgery but getting a second (or even a third) opinion is just as important as being educated. While there are a wide range of birth defects, we will cover the nine most commonly seen in the United States, making it essential to know how they may impact you and your baby.

Fragile X Syndrome is a chromosomal birth defect that largely occurs in males (1 in 1,500) although 1 in 1,000 females are carriers, only one in three show signs of a defect. The symptoms of Fragile X include a combination of physical characteristics such as larger sized ears, elongated face, poor muscle tone, flat feet, as well as, intellectual issues such as lack of language development, heart problems, “autistic-like” tendencies and many can suffer from seizures. Early intervention programs are essential, similar to Down syndrome, children with Fragile X syndrome can do most things children their age can with the help of catching symptoms early.

Sickle Cell Disease is a biochemical birth defect and affects 1 in 625 births, mainly of African-American and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry. Thirty states currently require newborns to be tested after birth. Causing debilitating bouts of pain and damage to vital organs, the disease itself can be fatal.

Congenital heart defects occur in about 1 in 110 births, some are mild with no visible symptoms while others are more complicated. The defects can stem from genetic abnormalities or a mistake during fetal development. Heart murmurs are usually a sign of a more serious defect and if untreated can lead to congestive heart failure. Symptoms of a heart defect usually include rapid heartbeat, breathing difficulties, feeding problems, swelling in legs, abdomen or eyes and pale or bluish skin. Most heart defects are able to be corrected or managed through surgery, drugs or mechanical aids (such as a pacemaker.)

One anatomical abnormality is the clubfoot, which occurs in about 1 in 400 newborns and affects twice many boys as girls. While we don’t know the exact cause of Clubfoot it is most likely a combination of heredity and environmental factors that affect feta growth and includes many kinds of ankle and foot deformities. Clubfoot can be mild to severe and affect one or both feet and is not painful until the child begins to walk. Common treatments for severe cases include casting, splints, surgery and special shoes while more mild cases commonly utilize physical therapy with special exercises.

Spina Bifida is another anatomical abnormality which is more frequently seen in Caucasians of European descent, happening in roughly 1 in 2,000 births. The abnormality comes from the malformation of a neural tube that prevents the backbone from closing completely during fetal development. Severity ranges from nearly harmless to limb paralysis and bladder/bowel- control problems. Treatment is vast with more severe cases having surgery directly after birth to simple leg and feet exercises to even the use of a wheelchair.

New treatments are researched every day but one Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) option is gaining steam; Pediatric Massage. It is easy to see why touch is gaining popularity in the medical world due to the many studies showing the benefits to both pre-natal massage for prevention and pediatric massage as treatment options to all birth defects listed here. As with any new healthcare program, always check with your doctor before starting, and follow their guidance. They are usually able to refer you to a certified pediatric massage therapist in your area that is experienced in providing therapeutic care to children with birth defects.

Want to find out more about baby massage and the many benefits that it provides? Tina Allen, founder of the nurturing touch non-profit The Liddle Kidz Foundation, with over ten years of experience working with children & Families, Ms. Allen has a plethora of resources for the interested parent.

Infant Massage for Birth Defects