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New soothing method my help premature babies gain weight

Posted:  Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Premature infants might face many difficulties when it comes to feeding. Since they are born earlier, they spend most of their time sleeping and interact lesser than term infants. Now, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health has developed an intervention wherein mothers administer appropriate social and physical stimulation to premature infants just before feeding. The researchers found that this method could help premature babies feed well and gain more weight.

Reported in the journal Advances in Neonatal Care, the study enrolled 183 mothers and their preterm infants born from the 29th through the 34th week of pregnancy. One half of the mother-infant pairs were allotted to the intervention group, whereas the other half were given general instructions on preterm infant care. The intervention provided to the study group was divided in 2 parts; the first part involved teaching mothers the Auditory, Tactile, Visual and Vestibular (ATVV) intervention, whereas the second part involved teaching mothers to identify subtle hunger cues of preterm infants. The researchers then evaluated the feeding ability of the infants in both the groups.

The steps involved in the ATVV intervention were as follows:

1. The mother gently speaks to the infant in calm soothing tones to alert the baby

2. For the next 10 minutes, the mother places the infant on its back and gently massages the head, chest, abdomen and arms

3. She then turns the infant over to massage the head and back

4. In the final 5 minutes, the mother holds her baby in her arms and rocks it horizontally

5. Throughout the process, the mother makes eye contact with the baby while it is awake.

The entire steps from 1 to 5 were repeated twice daily from the time the baby was 31 weeks old and continued until 1 month after the approximate date the baby would have been born if the pregnancy had completed term. In the second part of the intervention, the mothers were taught subtle cues that a preterm infant would display for hunger. For example, a term infant might cry indicating hunger, whereas a preterm infant would simply pull its hand towards the mouth.

The researchers found that the infants in the intervention group displayed better feeding ability and on an average weighed more than the ones in the other group. The infants in the intervention group also grew more rapidly during the last 5 days of their hospital stay than the ones in the non-intervention group. The intervention group outdid the control group in their ability to perform the mouth movements required for feeding.

“Preterm infants who fail to gain sufficient weight are at a higher risk for delays and even impairments in cognitive ability and motor skills,” said the researchers. Thus, such a simple intervention can help premature infants start feeding from the mouth earlier than expected.

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