Mothers are often on the receiving end of unsolicited advice when it comes to matters involving child-rearing. While most of these counsels come from a place of concern, not all of them are entirely true. Take for example the common belief that cradling a baby too much will ‘spoil’ them. New research says otherwise – in fact, increasing snuggle time with newborn babies shall provide them a number of long-term benefits.
This latest research – which was done at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio – involved 125 premature and full-term infants to learn about how they responded to gentle touch. Findings suggested that supportive and touch-based care in the very earliest days of life was associated with stronger brain responses to touch later in life.
In other words, holding, cuddling and cradling a baby will help stimulate their sensory system growth and development. This growth serves as the foundation for perceptual, cognitive, and social development as babies get older.
The study also found that premature babies were less likely to respond to touching than their full-term peers. Sadly, preemies who were exposed to painful medical procedures were also less likely to respond to touch. However, researchers also found that preterm babies who experienced an increase in gentle touch from parents or NICU medical staff responded better to gentle touching than those babies who were held less frequently.
Lead researcher Dr. Nathalie Maitre, says that this increase in responsiveness proves that gentle touching involving skin-to-skin contact tremendously helps in a baby’s brain development.
“Making sure that preterm babies receive positive, supportive touch such as skin-to-skin care by parents is essential to help their brains respond to gentle touch in ways similar to those of babies who experienced an entire pregnancy inside their mother’s womb,” Dr. Maitre explains in an interview with Science Daily.
Dr. Maitre is strongly advocating for hospitals to ensure that newborns experience this important contact which is said to provide lifelong benefits.
“When parents cannot do this, hospitals may want to consider occupational and physical therapists to provide a carefully planned touch experience, [which is] sometimes missing from a hospital setting,” she said.
The great news is that skin-to-skin contact or what is sometimes known as “kangaroo care” between newborns and parents has been commonplace in many hospitals and NICUs around the country. This recommendation for skin-to-skin contact is not just limited to mothers, of course. Gentle touching can be a whole family affair, as fathers and other relatives may participate in it as well.
The first few years of your child’s life are special, so savor it while you can and feel free to cuddle them to your heart’s content!
On a related topic, watch a video clip from St. Louis Children’s Hospital on how to soothe your baby:
(Note: This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only and not to be treated as a professional opinion, recommendation or medical diagnosis.)