Don’t put that baby down. New research says you can’t hold your baby too much. In fact, the more you snuggle with your babe, the better off they’ll be. The importance of touch in a baby’s development cannot be overstated, and the latest research suggests that holding your baby is more crucial to brain development than previously assumed.
This research, which was conducted at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, centered on 125 premature and full-term infants. The researchers wanted to see how babies responded to gentle touch, and found that preemies were less likely to respond to touching than their full-term peers. And sadly, preemies who had been exposed to painful medical procedures were also less likely to respond to touching.
But there’s good news, too. Researchers also found that the premature babies who experienced an increased amount of gentle touch from parents or NICU staff responded more strongly to that gentle touching than babies who were held or touched less frequently.
This increase in responsiveness shows that gentle touching (like rocking and skin-to-skin contact) can help brain development, writes lead researcher Dr. Nathalie Maitre.
Previous studies on everything from worm larvae to rat pups have exhibited the same results: touching is crucial for a developing brain.
“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,” she explained in an interview with Science Daily. “When parents cannot do this, hospitals may want to consider occupational and physical therapists to provide a carefully planned touch experience, sometimes missing from a hospital setting.”
So there you have it. Cuddle to your heart’s content! Your baby’s brain will thank you.