Physical contact with parents can help premature babies

Premature babies should be brought into close physical contact with their parents as soon as possible after birth, according to Germany's Professional Association of Paediatricians (BVKJ) in Munich. "There is evidence that premature babies have a better rate of development, grow faster and suffer less brain damage if they receive plenty of warmth and attention," said a spokesman Thomas Fendel. The hearts and lungs of babies who have contact with their parents develop quickly allowing the babies to be discharged from hospital earlier. However, a precondition of close contact is that no medical reason speaks against it. A tried and tested way of bringing the baby into contact with its parents is the Kangaroo Care method. It consists of placing the baby with an exposed upper body onto a parent's chest and covering it with a blanket. "The body's warmth and the feeling of security give the baby life-saving energy," says Fendel and recommends consulting a paediatrician after the baby has been discharged from hospital and working out an aftercare plan. Such a plan can help detect development disorders and any signs of handicap. The medical definition of a premature birth is when a baby is born between the ages of 24 and 37 weeks and its weight is below 2,500 grams. Premature babies often have problems breathing or cannot breathe without outside assistance and have problems taking fluids or maintaining normal body temperature. There is no firm way of predicting the extent to which a baby will be damaged by an early birth. DPA