Health::::: Gently stroking babies 'provides pain relief' - BESTAREWA BlOG

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Health::::: Gently stroking babies 'provides pain relief'

Gently stroking a baby reduces activity in their brain
associated with painful experiences, a study has found.
The study, by University of Oxford and Liverpool John Moores
University, monitored the brain activity of 32 babies while they
had blood tests.

Half were stroked with a soft brush beforehand and they
showed 40% less pain activity in their brain.

Author Rebeccah Slater said: "Touch seems to have analgesic
potential without the risk of side-effects."

The study found that the optimal pain-reducing stroking speed
was about 3cm (1in) per second.

"Parents intuitively stroke their babies at this optimal velocity,"
said Prof Slater.

"If we can better understand the neurobiological underpinnings
of techniques like infant massage, we can improve the advice
we give to parents on how to comfort their babies."
That speed of stroking activates a class of sensory neurons in
the skin called C-tactile afferents, which have been previously
been shown to reduce pain in adults.

But it had been unclear whether babies had the same
response or whether it developed over time.
"There was evidence to suggest that C-tactile afferents can be
activated in babies and that slow, gentle touch can evoke
changes in brain activity in infants," said Prof Slater.

Prof Slater said the study, published in Current Biology , could
explain anecdotal evidence of the soothing power of touch-
based practices such as infant massage and kangaroo care,
where premature babies are held against the skin to encourage
parent-infant bonding and possibly reduce pain.

"Previous work has shown that touch may increase parental
bonding, decrease stress for both the parents and the baby,
and reduce the length of hospital stay," said Prof Slater.
The study authors now plan to repeat their experiment in
premature babies, whose sensory pathways are still

Caroline Lee-Davey, chief executive at the premature and sick
baby charity Bliss welcomed the research.
"We already know that positive touch - such as skin-to-skin
care - makes a real difference directly to babies in neonatal
care and also helps parents to bond with their baby.
"This new research suggests that parental touch could also
help to alleviate pain in infants and Bliss is delighted to be
funding Oxford University to do more research specifically on
reducing pain in premature babies through the use of parental
touch, from the new year.
"Many people do not realise just how many medical
procedures a baby in neonatal care goes through during their
hospital stay.

"Anything that can reduce a baby's discomfort is a huge step
forward in this underfunded area of research."

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