New research shows that premature babies who are cuddled by their mothers experience significant positive health benefits which extend into childhood versus infants that are not cuddled.
The Israeli study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, shows that premature babies who are cuddled sleep better, have greater affective attention, steadier breathing and more regular heart rates.
"Every mammal has to be cuddled and in close proximity with its mother in the first days and weeks of life," Ruth Feldman, study author and neuroscience professor at Bar-Ilan University, tells Time. "This builds up the bodily systems that are sensitive to a physical presence."
Feldman and her team examined premature babies at two different hospitals in 1996. Preemies at one hospital received an hour of kangaroo care -- the practice of cuddling skin-to-skin -- by their mother for two weeks. Babies at the other hospital received none.
The study was repeated in 1998 with another two hospitals.Read More »from Cuddle therapy for preemies can have lasting positive effects: Study