Parenting tip: How do you improve brain development in a preterm baby?

Toni Harman
6 min readOct 20, 2022

Health tip for parents: New study finds supporting the emotional connection between mother and a preterm baby improves brain development.

New study reveals what parents can do (a great parenting tip!) to improve the brain development in a preterm baby
Parenting tip: How to do you improve brain development in a preterm baby?

This is useful info for parents…

Separating a newborn from its mother can lead to emotional trauma, for both the mum and the baby.

If a baby is born preterm and needs to be taken to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the mother-infant separation can be especially traumatic.

Preterm babies are at increased risk of behavioural problems, learning difficulties and communication issues. A study in 2021 found that the earlier a baby is born, the higher the likelihood of having autism.

But what if mother-baby emotional interactions are really nurtured during the baby’s stay in neonatal intensive care?

Could this help improve brain development in a preterm baby?

A new joint study by the University of Helsinki and Columbia University found exacty this: Supporting the emotional connection between a mother and her preterm baby whilst in the NICU improves the baby’s brain development.

The effects are clearly visible in the baby’s brain network function and also later in neurocognitive development.

Parenting Tip:

So what can parents do ( a great parenting tip!):

  • Calm interactions between parents and babies
  • Odor exchange
  • Firm sustained touch
  • Vocal soothing
  • Eye contact
  • Holding and feeding during the “Calming Cycle”
  • Family sessions to help support the parents

The study by Yrjölä P. et al. was published in Sci Transl Med. Sep 28 2022.

Details about the new study are below.

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Previous Studies

Previous studies by members of the research team found supporting the emotional connection between mother and…

Toni Harman

I help parents and health professionals better understand the science of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the microbiome.