Preterm babies thrive with mom’s interaction

If your baby is born prematurely, you may feel helpless. But you can help—enormously. Recent research proves it.

One study, published in the Journal of Perinatology, found that an intervention to teach mothers of preterm infants how to interact with their babies results in better weight gain and growth for the infants. Another, published in Advances in Neonatal Care, revealed that a major component of the same intervention helps infants develop the muscle control to bottle-feed more successfully.

The intervention is called H-HOPE, for Hospital to Home Transition—Optimizing Premature Infant’s Environment. In it, mothers are taught to recognize and respond to their infant’s hunger cues, which are subtler than those of full-term babies. They were also taught how to give such social and physical stimulation as soothing talk and gentle massages to encourage neurological development.

The researchers trained about half of 183 mothers and their preterm infants, born from the 29th through the 34th week of pregnancy, in the H-HOPE intervention. Those mothers were visited by a nurse-community health advocate team twice while in the hospital to teach them the intervention, and twice at home after their infants had been discharged. Infants who received the H-HOPE intervention weighed more and grew more rapidly in length, especially during the last five days of their hospital stay, on average, than those who didn’t.

If your child is born prematurely, be sure to talk to your neonatal intensive care team about helping your child thrive.

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