Public Release:  Pretermers bounce back from pain with a cuddle

BioMed Central

Research published today in the open access journal BMC Pediatrics suggests that very preterm babies, born between 28 and 31 weeks, could benefit from skin-to-skin cuddling with their mother before and during painful procedures such as a heel lance.

Celeste Johnston of McGill University, Montreal, Canada and colleagues have already shown that skin-to-skin contact, known as kangaroo mother care (KMC) helps babies born at 32 to 36 weeks to recover from pain. They hoped to determine whether KMC could reduce pain and aid recovery in even younger preterm babies born at 28 to 31 weeks. It was previously thought that such young babies were not developed enough to benefit from comfort strategies.

They carried out a randomized crossover trial to see whether such babies could bounce back from pain following a heel lance blood test, which involves pricking the baby's heel to obtain a blood sample. The team asked mothers to hold their babies for 15 minutes prior to and throughout a heel lance procedure. On another occasion the same babies in the trial were treated as normal and simply swaddled in the prone position in the incubator before and after the procedure.

The team was able to assess the babies' pain based on the Premature Infant Pain Profile (PIPP), which takes into account facial expressions, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels. They measured the PIPP just before the heel lance and at 30-second intervals during and after the procedure.

They found that PIPP scores at 90 seconds after the lance procedure were much lower in the KMC babies than in those without skin-to-skin contact. The facial expression of pain was shown less than half the time in the babies treated with KMC.

Babies receiving KMC also recovered from the pain within a couple of minutes, whereas the incubator babies were still suffering at more than three minutes. This delay could make all the difference to the health of a very preterm baby - born before 32 weeks - who needs almost constant incubator care.

"The pain response in very preterm neonates appears to be reduced by skin-to-skin maternal contact," says Johnston, "This response is not as powerful as it is in older preterm babies, but the shorter recovery time using KMC is important in helping maintain the baby's health." Johnston also points out that the approach could also have benefits for the mother whose parental role diminishes while her baby is in intensive care.

###

Notes to Editor:

  1. Kangaroo mother care diminishes pain from heel lance in very preterm neonates: A crossover trial
    Celeste Johnston, Francoise Filion, Marsha Campbell-Yeo, Celine Goulet, Linda Bell, Kathryn J McNaughton, Jasmine Byron, Marilyn
    Aita, G. ALLEN Finley and Claire DOMINIQUE Walker
    BMC Pediatrics (in press)

    During embargo, article available here
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/imedia/4934793731490104_article.pdf?random=881454

    After the embargo, article available at the journal website:
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcpediatr/

    Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

    Article citation and URL available on request at press@biomedcentral.com on the day of publication.

  2. This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research

  3. BMC Pediatrics is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of health care in neonates, children and adolescents, as well as related molecular genetics, pathophysiology, and epidemiology. BMC Pediatrics (ISSN 1471-2431) is indexed/tracked/covered by PubMed, MEDLINE, CAS, Scopus, EMBASE and Google Scholar.

  4. 4. BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com/) is an independent online publishing house committed to providing immediate access without charge to the peer-reviewed biological and medical research it publishes. This commitment is based on the view that open access to research is essential to the rapid and efficient communication of science.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.