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Forget what Grandma or out-of-date baby books might have once preached: Hold those snuggly newborns as much as you can. It's not only good for you, it's good for them.
Research reported in the journal Current Biology shows that those early experiences when babies are touched and held linger in their brains. Those early touches have lasting effects on how they respond to gentle touch later on, and may have a special impact for preterm infants.
The study at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio studied infants born preterm, at a gestational age of 24 to 36 weeks, as well as full-term infants born at 38 to 42 weeks. Using a gentle puff of air, researchers measured the babies' brain responses, and noted that preemies were more likely than the others to have a reduced brain response to the touch.
But the brain response was stronger when those babies had spent more time in gentle contact with parents or healthcare personnel. And understandably, the babies who'd had to experience painful medical procedures had less of a response to gentle touch later in life.