Why doctors should stroke babies

And why doing it at the right speed makes a difference

Ever wondered why stroking babies seems to calm them? Well, a team of UK researchers has just found out.

Their study shows that stroking babies at the right speed can reduce their pain response to heel pricks, and they think they know why it works.

The findings could lead to better pain relief for babies before medical procedures, they say.

In adults there is a class of C fibre sensory neurons in hairy skin that responds to gentle touch.

Stroking at a rate between 1 and 10cm/s stimulates these neurons optimally and previous research has shown this reduces the sensation of pain in adults.

These same fibres may lie behind the soothing effect of stroking in babies, suggest the researchers, led by professor of paediatrics, Professor Rebeccah Slater from the University of Oxford.

In their study, 30 newborns who needed heel-lancing for blood were randomly allocated to either stroking at