World first study proves skin-to-skin contact is safe for premature babies

The long and anxious wait many parents of premature babies face before being able to hold their newborn could be no more.

A world first study conducted in Australia has proven skin-to-skin contact with premature babies is safe and should be encouraged.

The study

The study, conducted at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, involved 40 preterm babies that were less than 33 weeks gestation when they were born.

In the first two weeks of the infants’ lives, researchers monitored the brain oxygen levels, heart rates and temperatures of the babies to ensure they were stable enough to be removed from their incubators and placed on their mum or dad’s chest.

Bonding benefits

Neonatologist Dr Laila Lorenz led the study, which she explains in this video posted to Youtube.

“Skin-to-skin care, also known as Kangaroo Care, is actually placing a newborn baby only wearing a nappy on to their mother of father’s chest,” Dr Lorenz says.

“Skin-to-skin care is really important for bonding, especially when you have a very preterm infant and you are very anxious.

“That’s what makes you feel, it’s your baby and you feel the heartbeat, feel the breathing and just have it close to you, I think for parents that’s a very special moment.”

Health benefits

In the past parents of very preterm babies have had to wait, sometimes several weeks, for their first cuddle to ensure all their vital signs could be kept stable.

This meant premature babies and their parents missed out on very important bonding time and it put the tiny infants at a further developmental disadvantage to full term babies.

This is why Dr Lorenze and her team set out to find if skin-to-skin care was safe for these preterm babies.

“We could show that it is safe and that all the numbers that we measured remained stable during the process of skin-to-skin,” she says.

“It is very important that we know that skin-to-skin is safe in these tiny preterm infants because we know that there are many benefits of skin-to-skin.

“[Full] term infants, for example, they breastfeed much better if they are out for skin-to-skin for a long time and there are studies from developing countries showing that infants exposed to skin-to-skin, compared to infants that are only in the incubator, they grow faster so they put on much more weight, they have less infections and they are discharged earlier than infants that are only in the incubator.”


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