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Mom's Voice Can Reduce Pain in Premature Babies, Study Says

Scientists found that when mom spoke during the procedure, baby's pain signs decreased, and their levels of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) increased.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published August 16, 2022
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Image: Brocreative/Shutterstock

As preterm births rise in the US, scientists are increasingly focused on how to make baby’s time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) a little bit better. Studies have shown that the sometimes painful procedures and isolation from mom while baby is in the NICU can have short and long-term effects on baby. To mitigate these effects, scientists have studied how mom’s voice might help.

The study conducted by the University of Geneva observed 20 premature infants and how they reacted to their mother’s voice during routine medical procedures, like heel pricks for blood tests. Scientists found that when mom spoke during the procedure, baby’s pain signs decreased, and their levels of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) increased. Although researchers did not observe the effects of a father’s voice on infant pain management, other studies have found dad’s voice has a calming effect as well.

While the sample size of the study was relatively small and more trials will be needed, researchers are excited about the implications the findings could have on NICU pain management. “We demonstrate here the importance of bringing parents and child together, especially in the delicate context of intensive care,” Manuela Filippa, PhD, a researcher and first author of the study, told Science Daily.

“Furthermore, parents play a protective role here and can act and feel involved in helping their child to be as well as possible, which strengthens the essential attachment bonds that are taken for granted in a full-term birth,” added Didier Grandjean, a professor at the University of Geneva and lead researcher on this study.

Navigating baby’s journey through the NICU can be difficult for any parent. Check out The Bump’s Guide to Surviving the NICU to learn more about NICU ins and outs and how to handle the stress.

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