Skin-to-skin contact between premature infants and their mothers naturally sounds like a good way to increase mother-baby bonding. However, a recent study published in Biological Psychiatry has found that the benefits can be measured in those children 10 years later.
Dr. Ruth Feldman, a professor at Bar-IIan University, and her colleagues asked 73 mothers to provide skin-to-skin contact with their premature infants one hour a day for 14 consecutive days. They compared this group against another 73 infants who received standard incubator care.
Children were followed for the next 10 years of their life through tests performed during seven separate visits.
This skin-to-skin contact method has been called Kangaroo Care (KC), which originally was developed in Bogota, Columbia as a way to help keep premature babies warm. This region was so lacking in incubators that using the mothers to provide warmth was a practical intervention.
Researchers found that during the first six months, KC mothers showed more maternal behavior towards their infants and were more sensitive to their needs.
Children in the KC group showed better cognitive skills and abilities in activities that involved memory. These children also had better sleep patterns, responses to stress and cognitive control. This improvement continued to be evident in repeated testing starting when the children were six months and continuing until they were 10 years old.
"This study reminds us once again of the profound long-term consequences of maternal contact," commented Dr. John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry in a EurekAlert! 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."
In another study reported on by Sciencedaily.com, Case Western Reserve University also researched the use of Kangaroo Care. Their research was carried out by Susan Ludington-Hoe, RN, CNM, PhD, FAAN.