Seeing your baby in pain is never easy, but new research has found that soothing babies who need medical procedures might be as simple as your touch.

A new study published in the journal Current Biology found that lightly brushing a baby at the speed of approximately three centimeters per second could provide an infant with effective pain relief before a medical procedure.

photo: skimpton007 via Pixabay

“Parents intuitively stroke their babies at this optimal velocity,” says senior author Rebeccah Slater, professor of pediatric science at the University of Oxford. “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.”

The researchers measured newborns’ pain responses to blood tests by observing their behavior and detecting their brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG). Half of the babies studied had their skin gently stroked with a brush before having blood taken. The babies who received light stroking touch showed lower pain-related EEG activity.

“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,” says Slater. “Touch seems to have analgesic potential without the risk of side effects.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin



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