A new study suggests that skin-to-skin contact with mothers relieves the pain of premature babies.

Premature babies, born between 28 and 31 weeks, benefit from skin-to-skin contact with their mothers before and during painful procedures. This method, also known as Kangaroo Mother Care, was proven effective with babies born between 32 and 36 weeks.

The team from McGill University analyzed whether KMC could help the littlest preemies recover from the pain of a heel lance, which consists of withdrawing blood from a baby's heel.

The same babies were analyzed twice. First, the mothers were instructed to hold their babies for 15 minutes before the procedure, as well as throughout the duration of the test. During a second heel lance, the babies were simply wrapped in a blanket in their incubator before and after the test.

The researchers determined the babies' pain levels using the Premature Infant Pain Profile (PIPP), which measures facial expressions, heart rate and blood oxygen levels. The measurements were registered just before the test, and then at 30-second intervals during and after.

It took KMC babies only a couple of minutes to recover from the pain of the procedure, while babies who didn't receive KMC were still suffering three minutes after the test.

"The shorter recovery time using KMC is important in helping maintain the baby's health", explains Celeste Johnson, researcher of the McGill University team.

Johnston pointed out that Kangaroo Mother Care could also have benefits for the mother, who often feels helpless while the infant is in intensive care.