Premature babies whose parents visited and held them frequently during their NICU stays were calmer and had higher quality movement than their less-visited peers, according to a new study in the Journal of Perinatology. Researchers tracked the frequency and length of parental visits and cuddling sessions during the hospital stays of 81 babies born at 30 or fewer weeks. At term, the researchers assessed the babies' neurobehavior using standardized techniques. While some infants were visited almost every day, more than two thirds were visited five or fewer days per week, and the rate of visits decreased over time. Holding frequencies, however, increased during the stays. More visitation and holding were associated with better quality of movement, less arousal and less excitability for the infant, with increased cuddling also associated with less stress. The authors conclude that visitation and holding may be easy-to-implement interventions that can promote healthy parent-child attachment while also giving preterm infants a developmental advantage. Read the abstract.

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