• head growth;
  • skin-to-skin contact;
  • VLBW infant

Aim:  To compare weight gain and head growth in very-low-birthweight (VLBW, <1501 g) infants with or without exposure to short duration of skin-to-skin contact (STSC) during their stay in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Methods:  Stable VLBW infants were randomised into either STSC or control group. Parents of the STSC group were encouraged to provide STSC for at least 1 h daily.

Results:  One hundred and forty-six infants were randomised, but only 126 were enrolled (STSC group: n = 64; Controls: n = 62). Infants in the STSC group had better mean weekly increase in head circumference (1.0 cm (SD = 0.3) vs. 0.7 cm (SD = 0.3); P < 0.0001) and higher breastfeeding rate at discharge (29.7% vs. 14.5%; P = 0.04). Although the mean duration of maternal education was longer in STSC (13.0 vs. 12.1 years; P = 0.04) than in controls, linear regression analysis showed that the significant predictors associated with weekly head growth were exposure to STSC (unstandardised coefficient: 0.2; 95% confidence intervals (CI): 0.1, 0.3; P < 0.0001) and head circumference of infants at the time of enrolment (unstandardised coefficient: −0.05; 95% CI: −08, −0.03; P < 0.0001); the number of years of maternal education was not a significant predictor. Logistic regression analysis showed that the only significant predictors of successful breastfeeding at discharge were receiving expressed breast milk at enrolment (adjusted OR: 4.1; 95% CI: 1.4, 11.7; P = 0.009) and receiving expressed breast milk during intervention period (adjusted OR: 8.3; 95% CI: 2.8, 24.4; P < 0.0001); exposure to STSC and maternal education were not significant predictors.

Conclusion:  Exposure to short duration of STSC may promote head growth in VLBW infants.