Edith Brignoni Pérez
Postdoc, Stanford University
Infants born very preterm (<32 weeks gestational age, GA) are at-risk for adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. GA at birth, socioeconomic status (SES), and medical risk (MedRisk) are predictive factors for these outcomes. It is unknown, however, whether Kangaroo Care (KC) (i.e., parent-infant skin-to-skin holding), a developmental care practice associated with improved neurodevelopmental outcomes, has a unique contribution to such outcomes over and above GA at birth, SES, and MedRisk. Participants were male or female infants born <32 weeks GA (N=72). To ensure adequate exposure to KC, we included only infants born at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. KC was recorded daily by clinical staff. From the electronic medical record (EMR), we collected the total amount (min) of KC experienced by infants during hospitalization. We derived one metric to quantify KC, accounting for the variability in KC days across infants: KC Rate (KC minutes/KC days, min/d). From the EMR, we also obtained a measure of non-verbal cognitive development at 6-months-old using age-adjusted scores from the Cognitive Adaptive Test (CAT) that is part of the Capute Scales. These and other data of cognitive development were collected through the Stanford’s High-Risk Infant Follow-up program. We performed hierarchical linear regression analysis to assess the unique contribution of in-hospital KC to 6-months-old CAT, after accounting for GA at birth, SES, and MedRisk. We found that KC Rate significantly predicted CAT at 6-months-old, over and above GA at birth, SES, and MedRisk. Moreover, these effects were not moderated by the 6-months-old visit status (i.e., before vs. during the COVID-19 pandemic). These findings suggest that modifying infants’ clinical care in the hospital to include family-centered interventions, such as KC, may offer opportunities to promote positive cognitive developmental outcomes in infants born very preterm. Future analyses will explore the potential mediation factors (e.g., brain white matter) of this unique contribution of KC.