Tiny preemie reaches out for contact and comfort

By Dave Andrusko

The picture of a premature baby was posted by a nurse on Figure 1, an app and website where medical staff worldwide share images, and canvass colleagues’ opinions.

The picture of a premature baby was posted by a nurse on Figure 1, an app and website where medical staff worldwide share images, and canvass colleagues’ opinions.

Two of my sisters are nurses, one is still active in an ER, and I sure wish they would have told me about Figure 1, an image-sharing app for medical staff. (I assume they didn’t/couldn’t for professional reasons. Still….)

In Monday’s edition of the Daily Mail, there is this heart-warming times ten photo of a tiny preemie’s little hand reaching out to touch the wrist of her nurse.

Reporter Anna Hodgekiss tells us

Born at just 26 weeks, this tiny girl weighed less than 1 lb and was admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital in the U.S.. Her hand was only around 2cm from little finger to thumb.

Hodgekiss explains that the photo was taken before the U.S. hospital changed its rules to require staff to wear gloves during routine care.

“In the UK, she writes, “neonatal staff don’t have to wear gloves as skin contact is so beneficial. Research has shown that from birth, touch is crucial to a child’s physical and psychological development.”

The remainder of her story provides academic evidence that supports the incredible importance not only to preemies of skin-to-skin contact but to all newborns. For example, with respect to mothers and their babies, this contact is

  • “Thought to stimulate production of prolactin, the milk- stimulating hormone, and oxytocin, the ‘cuddle hormone.’”
  • “Incredibly, premature babies given skin-to-skin contact showed the benefits 20 years later, says a Colombian study that followed more than 250 babies. The researchers, writing in the U.S. journal Pediatrics in December, reported these children had reduced hyperactivity, reduced school absenteeism, were less aggressive and more socially able than a control group.”

The story ends beautifully. Kate Pinney, a midwifery manager, explained, “For premature babies, skin contact is more important, as they need more help to thrive.”

“As for the baby here ‘responding’ to the nurse’s touch, it is likely she actually did,” Hodgekiss writes. “Babies crave close contact because they need to recreate conditions experienced before birth, says Professor Craig Jackson, a psychologist at Birmingham City University.

What about the preemie?

The good news is that the tiny baby in this picture is now a ‘happy, healthy, 14 lb nine-month-old’, the nurse says. ‘Premature babies are the definition of a miracle. I have the best job ever.’

It’s just a wonderful story. If ever a picture was worth a thousand words, this is it.

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