Cochrane Summaries

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Developmental care for promoting development and preventing morbidity in preterm infants

Symington AJ, Pinelli J
Published Online: 
21 January 2009

Developmental care interventions may help preterm infants cope better with the environment of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Preterm infants (babies born before 37 weeks) can develop a range of problems because their organs are not mature. There is concern that an unfavourable environment in the NICU can add to these problems and negatively affect the infant's growth, with the brain being particularly vulnerable. Developmental care refers to a range of strategies designed to reduce the stresses of the NICU. These include reducing noise and light, minimal handling and giving longer rest periods. The review of trials suggests that these interventions may have some benefit to the outcomes of preterm infants; however, there continues to be conflicting evidence among the multiple studies. Before a clear direction for practice can be supported, evidence demonstrating more consistent effects of developmental care interventions on important short- and long-term clinical outcomes is needed. The economic impact of the implementation and maintenance of developmental care practices should be considered by individual institutions.