Incubators versus mothers’ arms: body temperature conservation in very-low-birth-weight premature infants

A. C. Mellien
J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2001 Mar-Apr;30(2):157-64.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether there is a significant difference between the temperatures of very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) premature infants in the incubator and in the mothers’ arms.

DESIGN: Repeated measures, with random assignment to treatment order and the infants serving as their own controls.

SETTING: A 40-bed tertiary-level nursery in a university teaching hospital.

PARTICIPANTS: A convenience sample of 20 preterm infants weighing 1,095 to 1,500 g and from 30 to 37 weeks postconceptional age. The infants were screened for factors that would interfere with temperature maintenance.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Axillary temperatures were measured with an electronic thermometer for equal periods of time in incubators and mothers’ arms. The mean temperature differences between the two study conditions were compared using two-tailed t tests and repeated analysis of variance (ANOVA). Weight was monitored and analyzed for evidence of increased metabolic activity.

RESULTS: No significant variations were found in the infants’ mean temperatures in the incubator, but the infants were significantly warmer while in their mothers’ arms.

CONCLUSION: VLBW premature infants can maintain a stable temperature in their mothers’ arms without evidence of increased metabolic activity. Nurses can encourage mothers to hold their infants without fear of cold stress or weight loss.

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