November 26, 2012
COLOGNE, Germany (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)) -- The brains of premature infants develop better when the babies have plenty of skin-to-skin contact with their mother and father at the hospital neonatal care unit
This is according to Ulrich Fegeler, spokesman for Germany's Professional Association of Children's and Young People's Physicians. This technique, in which the well-covered baby lies naked on the parent's bare chest, is known as kangaroo mother care (KMC).
"Babies born before the 33rd week of pregnancy often have trouble keeping pace with the development of full-term infants," Fegeler noted, adding that skin-to-skin contact seemed to accelerate pre-term infants' development.
"The parents' heartbeat and the warmth of their skin presumably provide stimulation similar to what babies get in their mother's womb."
A Canadian study that compared, at age 15, full-term children with those who had been born very premature and either kept in incubators or given plenty of KMC showed that the KMC group had brain functions -- for example cerebral motor function and coordination between the two cerebral hemispheres -- similar to those of the full-term group. Results from the incubator group, on the other hand, were worse.
Earlier studies showed that KMC also has an immediate pacifying effect on pre-term infants, who better cope with unpleasant experiences like having a blood sample taken from their heel.
"Skin contact benefits not only the pre-term babies," Fegeler said. "The close contact promotes bonding between parents and child and helps the child to calm down faster in stressful situations."
Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH