- Scientists have
found that positive touch improves brain development among newborns
- Some pre-term
babies have to undergo complicated surgeries which limit their exposure to
- Gentle touch will
aid in better response to touch after leaving the hospital and will
improve brain development among preemies.
therapy has for long been talked about as an important aspect in maintaining
meaningful relationships and a recent study on newborns has identified how
their brains respond to gentle touch. The study published in the journal Current Biology
details the study
conducted on over 125 newborns, including premature babies, and their
responses. The findings of the study show that initial experiences of touch
have a profound influence on the way their brains respond to touch after they
go home from the hospital.
study serves to reinforce the long held belief about the importance of gentle
touch on the normal sensory development of newborns. The results of the study
are vital for premature babies who are required to spend long period of time in
hospitals before they are fit enough to go home. This initial period of
hospitalization should include the right amount of care, in terms of gentle
touch, which will help the baby experience better neuronal growth and respond
positively to gentle touch at home.
‘Pre-term babies should be stroked and held gently to ease their pain and improve their response to positive touch’
Nathalie Maitre from the Nationwide
Children's Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center
ensuring positive as well as supportive touch like skin to skin care by parents
would greatly help pre-term babies respond to touch like babies who were born
full term. The additional period of stay at the hospital, connected to
machines, could result in many babies missing out on the tender, loving touch
that full term babies may be exposed to. The current study brings focus to the
need for gentle touch among pre-term babies. The scientists involved in the
study claim that, though it may not be possible for parents to provide this
care during the period of stay at the hospital, as pre-term babies remain in
the intensive care unit, where parent access is restricted, vital touch therapy
could be provided by physical therapists or occupational therapists.
The Importance of
premature babies were included in the study, born between 24 to 36 weeks and
infants born full term between 38 to 42 weeks. The brain responses of the
babies were measured using a soft EEG after a puff of air and after a 'fake'
study found that
- Pre-term babies showed a lower brain response
to touch than babies who were born full term.
- Brain response
among preterm babies was found to be increased when there was sufficient
gentle contact with the baby when in the NICU.
- Pre-term babies
who were exposed to a lot of painful procedures showed lowered brain response to gentle
touch. This held true even when sugar and pain medication were provided to
the babies to ease the pain involved in the procedures.
Maitre said that an increase in positive experience while in the hospital could
aid babies in a more typical response to touch even after they were taken home
from the hospital. Apart from the positive experience, the study showed that
painful procedures endured at the hospital affects their response to the sense
study has resulted in Dr. Maitre and her colleagues designing innovative
methods to ensure that there is positive touch when the babies are in the
pre-term ICU. There are further studies being initiated to understand how the
baby's brain responds to the sound of an individual's voice.
study aids in highlighting the importance of positive touch, even among babies who are ailing and who are very small. This will help
hospital establishments to encourage time with family, where parents can be
asked to stroke the child, even when in the NICU.
positive touch can be a healing experience, both for the mother as well as the
baby, especially when the baby needs to undergo prolonged treatment at the
hospital. There are different types of interactions like when holding,
handling, massage and kangaroo care
term positive touch was coined by Dr.
in his famous book 'Loving
that detail the actions of Shantala, a young Indian mother,
massaging her newborn in the streets of Calcutta.
Positive touch would ensure
- A sense of
bonding between the mother and the child.
- The early
interaction with the newborn will help in the future development of the
- In an NICU, the
newborn may suffer from harsh environment and acute distress. Positive
touch will help comfort the baby and will foster feelings of positivity,
which will be reflected in neuronal development.
- Apart from
neuronal development, positive touch will help in improving social
interaction of the baby.
importance of positive touch
new born is well documented and the Indian tradition of
has been highlighted in many studies. However, preterm babies in
NICU are often considered too small and often miss out on good positive touch.
This study serves to highlight the importance of consciously providing pre-term babies with gentle touch
, even if
they seem to be oblivious to the touch when in the hospital.
- Positive Touch and massage in the neonatal unit: a
British approach - (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.619.3117&rep=rep1&type=pdf)