Cuddling small and premature babies in a style known as “kangaroo mother care” helps them in life decades later, researchers reported Monday.

They found that babies held upright and close to bare skin and breastfed, instead of being left in incubators, grew up with fewer social problems. They were far less likely to die young.

It’s a reassuring finding for parents who may worry that tiny and premature babies are safer in an incubator than in their arms, the team wrote in their report, published in the journal Pediatrics.

Kangaroo mother care was first described in Colombia, and the team of experts there who first showed it was safe did a 20-year follow-up to see how the babies fared as they grew up. They tracked down 494 of the original 716 children who were born prematurely from 1993 to 1996 and randomly assigned to get either kangaroo mother care or standard handling. [Read more on the NBC site]

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