Oxytocin (OT) is a social hormone that may help researchers understand how nurse-guided interventions during initial infant hospitalization, such as supporting human milk expression, promoting comforting touch, and reducing exposure to stressors, affect preterm brain development.Purpose:
To determine whether factors related to human milk, touch, or stressor exposure are related to plasma OT trajectories in premature infants.Methods:
Plasma from 33 premature infants, born gestational ages 25 toMethods:
weeks, was collected at 14 days of life and then weekly until 34 weeks' corrected gestational age (CGA). Variables related to feeding volumes of human milk and formula; touch, as indexed by skin-to-skin contact (SSC) and swaddled holding; and clinical stressors were extracted from the electronic medical record. Linear mixed-models tested associations between nurse-guided variables and plasma OT trajectories.Results:
In the final model, same-day SSC was positively related not only to plasma OT levels at 27 weeks' CGA (β= .938, P = .002) but also to a decline in plasma OT levels over time (β=−.177, P = .001). Volume of enteral feeds (mL/kg/d), its interaction with CGA, and number of stressful procedures were not statistically significant (β= .011, P = .077; β=−.002, P = .066; and β= .007, P = .062, respectively).Implications for Practice:
Nurse-guided interventions are associated with infant plasma OT levels, suggesting nurses may impact the neurobiology of the developing premature infant.Implications for Research:
Replication with larger sample sizes and randomized controlled trial designs is needed to test effects of specific nursing interventions on infant OT.