Talk to premature babies to boost growth: Study

Washington: Premature babies benefit from being exposed to adult talk as early as possible, shows a new research.

A study led by a team at the Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, both of the US, has been published in the February 2014 online edition of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

It indicates that premature babies benefit from being exposed to adult talk as early as possible, reported Science Daily.

The research, entitled "Adult Talk in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) with Pre-term Infants and Developmental Outcomes", was led by Betty Vohr, MD, director of Women and Infants' Neonatal Follow-Up Programme and professor of pediatrics, along with her colleagues.

The aim of the study was to test the association of the amount of talking that a baby was exposed to at what would have been the 32nd and 36th weeks gestation if a baby had been born full term, using the Bayley scales of infant and toddler development, 3rd Edition (Bayley - III) cognitive and language scores.

It was hypothesised that pre-term infants exposed to higher word counts would have higher cognitive and language scores at seven and 18 months corrected age.

At 32nd and 36th week, staff recorded the NICU environment for 16 hours with a Language Environment Analysis (LENA) microprocessor. The adult word count, child vocalisations and "conversation turns" (words of mother or vocalisations of infant within five seconds) between mother and infant are recorded and analysed by computer.

The results showed the hypothesis to be true.

"Our study demonstrates the powerful impact of parents visiting and talking to their infants in the NICU on their developmental outcomes," Vohr said.

Historically, many premature infants are at increased risk of language delay. The study now identifies an easy-to-implement and cost-effective intervention to improve outcomes - come talk and sing to your baby!