Tactile Stimulation: Where science meets survival

Tactile Stimulation: Where science meets survival

Premature Babies often stop breathing, but a simple touch stimulates them to breathe again. However in everyday hospital life, it’s difficult for the nurses to touch every single premature baby in time. Fortunately, researchers in Leipzig have developed a method that can be used to semi-mechanically stimulate premature babies. NIVEA promotes this project to increase the chances of survival of premature babies.

How does it work?

A light foot massage animates the premature babies to breathe again.

15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely each year. Most of them have to be treated and monitored by intensive care medicine. One problem is breathing: Even if premature babies are able to breathe independently, they frequently stop. Respiratory arrest, or apnea, can occur up to 15 times per hour. As a result, the blood oxygen level drops, putting the baby in acute danger.

“Our project aims to end the extremely frequent breathing stoppages of premature infants faster than before.”
Prof. Dr. Martin Grunwald

Prof. Dr. Martin Grunwald

Head of the Haptic Research Laboratory in Leipzig

Prof. Dr. Martin Grunwald and his team from the Haptics Laboratory at the University of Leipzig have come up with a simple idea: A tiny air pressure cuff on the foot of the premature infant is pumped up and down for a short time. This light foot massage stimulates the baby to breathe again.

About the project (3:07)


babies are born prematurely each year worldwide


times per hour a premature baby could stop breathing


touch could save a preemie’s life

"Our stimulator should be able to be used worldwide to better manage these terrible apneic phases."

Prof. Dr. Martin Grunwald