Kangaroo Care (Skin Contact) Reduces Crying Response to Pain in Preterm Neonates: Pilot Results

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Pain Management Nursing


Crying commonly occurs in response to heel stick and adversely affects the infant's physiologic stability. Minimal crying in response to pain is desired. “Kangaroo Care,” skin contact between mother and infant, reduces pain and may reduce crying in response to pain. The purpose of this pilot study was to test Kangaroo Care's effect on the preterm infant's audible and inaudible crying response to heel stick. Inaudible crying has not been previously studied. A prospective randomized cross-over study with 10 preterm infants 2-9 days old (30-32 weeks' postmenstrual age) was conducted. Infants were randomly assigned to two sequences (sequence A: day 1 heel stick in Kangaroo Care [after 30 min of prone skin contact upright between maternal breasts] and day 2 heel stick in incubator [inclined, nested and prone]; or sequence B: opposite of sequence A) was conducted. Videotapes of baseline, heel warming, heel stick, and recovery phases were scored for audible and inaudible crying times. Audible and inaudible crying times for each subject in each phase were summed and analyzed by repeated-measures analysis of variance. Subject characteristics did not differ between those in the two sequences. Crying time differed between the study phases on both days (p ≤ .001). When in Kangaroo Care compared with the incubator, crying time was less during the heel stick (p = .001) and recovery (p = .01) phases, regardless of sequence. Because Kangaroo Care reduced crying in response to heel stick in medically stable preterm infants, a definitive study is merited before making recommendations.


Supported by NIH-1RO3 NR08587 and an Association of Women's Health, Obstetrics, and Neonatal Nurses grant.