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A boost for low-weight babies.

A boost for low-weight babies

Newborns weighing less than 4 pounds face an uncertainfuture. The lower their weight and the more premature their birth, the greater the chances they will suffer developmental delays and mental and physical disabilities. Furthermore, parents are often fearful of giving care to these frail-looking, generally unresponsive babies.

But relatively inexpensive hospital and home treatments,combined with support and encouragement for parents, markedly improve the outlook for "low-birthweight babies' during the first two years of life, according to a report in the July PEDIATRICS. A total of 255 infants born weighing 4 pounds or less were studied, most of them from poor, rural families. About half were randomly assigned to an "infant development program.' While still in an intensive care unit, these babies were put on insulated waterbeds and provided with daily activities, including gentle massage and motion exercises, oral stimulation with a pacifier and tape recordings of parents' voices, classical music and the human heartbeat. Parents participated in treatment from the start and were taught exercises to use with infants after discharge from the hospital. Parents also received regular counseling on infant care needs and difficulties.

The rest of the babies and their parents were given the careand referrals customarily provided in such cases.

Infants in the experimental program had significantly higherscores on mental and physical development scales at 1 and 2 years of age, say Michael B. Resnick and his colleagues of the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville. Only 4 percent of the experimental group had severe impairments of mental development at age 2, compared with 26 percent of the control group.

Such hospital and home interventions cost about $3,600 perchild, a "relatively low-cost' preventive technique, say the researchers. Future research will focus on how long-lasting the effects are and which methods were most critical.
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Title Annotation:infant development program
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 18, 1987
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