Mums’ touch helps babies recover from pain

A cuddle from their mother helps babies recover from pain more quickly, according to a new report.

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The babies suffered less if they experienced skin-to-skin contact with their mother as they underwent a painful medical procedure, their Canadian study found.

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As well as confirming the power of a mother’s touch, the research could offer a way of helping to relieve pain in children who are too young to take painkillers.

Scientists registered the facial reactions, heart rate, and blood oxygen levels of 61 premature babies as they underwent a heel lance, which is used to take blood samples from the extremely young.

The findings, published in the journal BMC Pediatrics, show that the signs of pain fell by half when babies were in their mother’s arms.

Within three minutes the babies’ reactions had returned to normal, while those who were not cuddled were still in pain.

Celeste Johnston, of McGill University, Montreal, who led the study, said that the results showed that a mother cuddling her baby “can facilitate not only [less pain] but also a quicker recovery”.

The findings suggest that mothers of premature babies, who often feel excluded in intensive care units, should be encouraged to have close contact with their children.

A spokesman for Bliss, the premature baby charity, said: “The benefits of regular skin-to-skin care – in terms of improved heart rate and temperature regulation in the infant, and promotion of the mother and baby bond – have long been recognised.

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“This study suggests that there is also a particular pain management function to skin-to-skin care, confirming just how crucial this type of close contact is.”

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