Turns Out You Can Never Hold Your Baby ‘Too Much,’
I'll be honest, I never really grasped the concept that you could ever hold your baby "too much", but it was something I heard time and time again when both my kids were small.
So I held them as much as I liked - that I could damage them by doing so never seemed logical. That somehow all that closeness would cause them to become clingy, overly dependent adults seemed absurd.
I mean come on...babies are built to be snuggled. Why would their heads smell so delicious otherwise? Babies are tiny adorable blobs of squishiness that MUST BE squeezed all the time!
And it turns out now there is actual research to back this up because lo and behold, according to a recent study, holding your baby early and often actually has benefits later in life!
Research reported in the journal Current Biology shows that touch is critical to a baby’s development and these touches remain like a footprint on their brains. Early touch has been shown to have lasting effects on their response to gentle touch later in life, and may be even more important for preterm infants.
The findings of the research add to our understanding that greater exposure to these types of touch can actually impact how the brain processes touch, which is a sense necessary for learning and social-emotional connections.
The study involved 25 infants - some born preterm (between 24 - 36 weeks) and some full-term (between 38 - 42 weeks). Researchers used a gentle puff of air and then a “fake” puff of air and measured the babies’ brain responses to both. Their research showed that premature babies who were in the neonatal ICU and had an increased amount of gentle contact with parents and caregivers had a stronger response to touch than the preterm infants who did not receive as much gentle contact.
The study also showed the babies who had experienced painful medical procedures had a decreased response to gentle touch later in life. What was surprising was that painful procedures which are known to impact processing of pain in the brain also impacted processing of touch, in a negative way.
The study concluded that gentle touch for all newborns, especially those born premature, may help develop building blocks they will need for cognition, communication and behaviour later in life. I say just have as many of the snuggles as humanly possible because your kids are only that small once.
If I could figure out a way to wear my seven year old around in a sling, dammit, I would try it. Don’t even start with me people, SHE IS MY LAST and I am not above strapping her to me.