Stroking helps premature babies develop intelligence

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GENTLE stroking of premature babies immediately after birth has a long-term effect on their intelligence and achievements at primary school, according to a study.

Dr Elvidina Adamson-Macedo, the leading proponent of what is known as TAC-TIC (touching and caressing-tender in caring) therapy, said that in intelligence tests conducted at age seven on children who had been born prematurely, those who had been stroked did better than those who had not.

Dr Adamson-Macedo, from Wolverhampton University, said that why stroking from head to foot for about 20 minutes a day should be benficial was not known. Previous work showed that stroked babies had stronger sucking action, better hand and eye co-ordination, and vocabulary at 15 months.

She said stroking may enhance saliva production and so improve the absorption of food by premature babies who often have feeding problems. Regular, systematic touching may also enhance the confidence of babies and parents, Dr Macedo- Adamson said. Many parents of premature babies treat them as 'china dolls' throughout childhood, which can hinder development.