Gently Stroking Babies Provides Pain Relief

When babies are in pain, or showing signs of discomfort after first starting baby solid food, parents dig into their toolkit and try a number of different techniques to help soothe their little one. Rocking, swaddling, shushing, nursing, have all shown to be successful methods.

Gently stroking babies provides pain relief

A new study shows that gently stroking a baby reduces activity in their brain associated with painful experiences. 

The study, by University of Oxford and Liverpool John Moores University, monitored the brain activity of 32 babies while they had blood tests, which can be a stressful event for most babies Half were stroked with a soft brush beforehand and they showed 40% less pain activity in their brain. 

The study author, Professor Rebeccah Slater, said: "If we can better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of techniques like infant massage, we can improve the advice we give to parents on how to comfort their babies."

Gently stroking babies provides pain relief

The study also found the optimal pain-reducing stroking speed is 3cm (1in) per second. The optimal speed of stroking activates sensory neurons in the skin called 'C-tactile afferents', which have previously been proven to reduce pain in adults. But it had been previously unclear whether babies had the same response or whether they developed it over time with age.

"Previous work has shown that touch may increase parental bonding, decrease stress for both parents and baby, and reduce the length of hospital stay," explained Prof Slater. This new study reinforces that gentle stroking also helps reduce pain in babies.

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