Intentional Stimuli in the Preterm Infant

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This research project explores the effectiveness of intentional stimuli, specifically Kangaroo care and massage therapy, on infants in the NICU. Kangaroo care focuses on skin-to-skin contact between the caregiver and newborn, while infant massage therapy involves therapeutic touch and increasing circulation within the newborn. Peer-reviewed articles from the Journal of Pediatrics, Journal of Perinatology, Neonatal Network, and World Health Organization were used to provide evidence either supporting or refuting the use of intentional stimuli in the NICU. Overall, this project finds both methods of stimulation to be beneficial when applied under the appropriate circumstances. It is found that Kangaroo care, provided during the infant’s rest and wake periods for the first 2-3 days of life, promotes the release of oxytocin in the brains of the infant and the caregiver. Benefits of Kangaroo care can include maturation of neural pathways, increased attachment, better temperature regulation, and shorter recovery times. Although it has these benefits, it should only be applied when ongoing evaluation of the infant’s oxygen saturation is possible, as hypoxia can result in more premature infants. Massage therapy is another great way to stimulate the newborn to promote infant growth and weight gain. However, unlike Kangaroo care, massage therapy needs to coincide with care, with infants already weighing >1,000 g, and be balanced with rest periods to avoid overstimulation of the infant. Both intentional stimulation methods are found to be beneficial to the infant’s overall outcome when applied to the right patient situations at the right time.

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