For a long time, it was thought that you could spoil a baby by picking it up every time it cried. This must have gone against every parent’s instincts, doesn’t your heart lurch when you hear that little cry (or loud one)? Fortunately, based on scientific research, opinions have changed. It has been shown that babies that receive a lot of physical contact from the beginning and throughout childhood, in general are better grounded, more confident and have better social skills. I say in general, because there are of course exceptions.
Did you know that if a baby is deprived of human contact in the first weeks of its life, it is very likely to encounter health problems and fail to thrive? Even if they get their essential care such as food, if they are not held and cuddled they do not do well.
You have probably heard of a hormone called oxytocin. It is one of the hormones that make you feel good and it enhances bonding. It is produced during childbirth and is thought to be one of the factors that makes you fall in love with your new little bub straight away. It has been found that kangaroo care with premature babies and their mothers (cuddle time having the baby on the parent’s chest with skin to skin contact) increases the level of oxytocin in both babies and mothers and possibly in the breastmilk as well, so that the baby gets an extra dose when feeding.
There are several factors that help your child’s social development, and touch is one of them. Research shows that there are certain nerve fibres that react to slow touch and strokes. Through these nerve fibres, the sensation of touch reaches the brain. In turn, when activated by a gentle and affectionate touch, the nerves trigger a load of hormonal effects in the brain. According to some scientists this fundamental in developing the social brain.
So if your baby wants attention, don’t hold back on cuddles and kisses, it does so much more than you probably realise! I think one of the main reasons you hold and cuddle you child is to reassure it, make it feel loved and secure. I can’t stress enough how important this is for your child’s development.
Anyway, what do you do if you see someone in distress, maybe your dear friend or a close relative? Do you stay clear of them or approach them and put an arm around their shoulders to comfort them? Or meeting a dear one after a short or long absence, do you just wave or give them a big hug? I know what I’d do! It goes to show that touch is very natural for us humans.
After reading the above, you can understand how a nice and gentle massage can do wonders, can’t you? The particular manner of skin to skin contact with massage has even more benefits, releases several hormones with beneficial effects.
Really, all people benefit from regular skin to skin contact, not just the little ones. Actually, the elderly quite often crave this type of contact, so when you go see your Nan or Pop, hold their hand or stroke their arm, and see how they react…
Sources: raisingchildren.net.au, livestrong.com, time.com, huffingtonpost.com.au, babble.com