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Premature babies benefit from cuddles

New research has shown that very premature babies benefit from the touch of their parents or carers
Babies born as early as 28 weeks have been shown to benefit from skin to skin contact with their parents, new Canadian research has shown.

The stress and pain from medical procedures many premature babies experience was found to be lessened if the baby was being cuddled.

Researchers at the McGill University looked at very premature babies born between 28 and 31 weeks when the "heel prick" blood test, which produces a sample which can be used to check blood sugar levels, was administered.

The procedure is painful for the baby and the stress and discomfort can take minutes to recede at a time when any stress for the child could be potentially dangerous. However, they discovered that babies who were being cuddled at the time of the test and afterwards, fared batter.

They measured pain by looking at facial expressions, heart rate and blood oxygen levels. Pain scores after 90 seconds for the cuddled babies were much lower than for those who were not cuddled.

Lead author of the report, published in the health journal BMC Pediatrics, Celeste Johnston, said: "The pain response in very preterm neonates appears to be reduced by skin-to-skin maternal contact."

Many neo-natal wards in the UK discourage direct contact with very premature babies but there is growing evidence fro this and other reports suggesting that it could be beneficial both for the babies' health and the bonding process between parents and child.

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