It's never too early for parents to hold, touch and caress their offspring, even if the baby is born very prematurely.
According to BBC News, researchers from McGill University in Montreal found that parents who cuddle with babies born as early as 28 weeks help lessen the stress of painful medical procedures the infants will have to endure. The normal term of pregnancy before delivering a baby is between 37 and 42 weeks, according to the U.S. government's National Institutes of Health.
In fact, reports the BBC, the McGill scientists believed the skin-to-skin contact between parents and baby is so important that it might aid in the recovery process from the medical procedures.
The researchers used a common test for newborns --- the heel pin prick to obtain blood to check blood sugar levels -- as a test for stressful reaction.
This test is almost always painful for newborns, BBC News reports. The result: For premature babies who were cuddled after having a heel pin prick, pain scores after 90 seconds were much lower than for the babies not held and caressed by an adult.
Lead researcher Celeste Johnson said she found that cuddling seemed to assist in the baby's recovery from a painful experience. "The pain response in very preterm neonates appears to be reduced by skin-to-skin maternal contact," she told the BBC.