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Skin-to-Skin Contact Better Than Incubators for Premature Babies

Update Date: Jan 06, 2014 06:25 PM EST

A mother's touch can last for decades. The benefits of early skin-to-skin contact with mothers are apparent even a decade after birth, according to a new study on premature babies.

Previous studies reveal that physical contact with babies is important for physical and mental development. Children neglected in hospitals and orphanages are significantly more likely to develop problems that hinder their abilities to thrive.

"In this decade-long study, we show for the first time that providing maternal-newborn skin-to-skin contact to premature infants in the neonatal period improves children's functioning ten years later in systems shown to be sensitive to early maternal deprivation in animal research," lead researcher Dr. Ruth Feldman, a Professor at Bar-Ilan University, said in news release.

The latest study involved using an intervention called "Kangaroo Care". The intervention was developed to prevent premature babies from developing hypothermia in places where there aren't enough incubators. For the study, 73 mothers were asked to provide skin-to-skin contact to their premature infants in the neonatal until for one hour daily for 14 consecutive days. These infants were compared with another 73 premature infants who received standard incubator care.

When children turned ten, those who received maternal contact as babies exhibited more organized seep, better neuroendocrine response to stress, more mature functioning of the autonomic nervous system, and better cognitive control.

"This study reminds us once again of the profound long-term consequences of maternal contact," Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry said in a news release. "The enhanced level of stimulation provided by this contact seems to positively influence the development of the brain and to deepen the relationship between mother and child."

The findings are published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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