As adults touch is so important to our health and well-being. When we feel sad or alone, a hug from a friend or loved one can make you feel instantly better.
These same emotional benefits are especially relevant for babies and young children. Your baby feels better when held and comforted by your loving touch!
In fact so many benefits of touch have been recorded through various studies. Here are some of the most well-documented ones…
The Benefits of Touch
Healthy weight gain and enhanced growth – in one study, premature infants who were massaged while at the hospital gained more weight and were ready to go home with their parents earlier than preemies who were not massaged.
Less anxiety – Gentle and loving touch can help small babies grow stronger and feel less anxious which is why placing newborn babies on their mother’s chest immediately after birth is so vital.
Enhanced emotional development – Touch is our first language and the touch between a mother and her baby brings them emotionally close – known as bonding or attachment.
Less crying – Babies communicate by crying but new research seems to suggest that increasing mother-baby contact reduces crying. Researchers asked a group of mothers to carry their babies for at least three hours a day. They then compared their crying patterns with a group of babies who were carried the typical one to two hours daily. The results showed that babies who were carried more, cried less – especially at six weeks of age, when babies typically cry the most. The close bond between parent and baby gave these infants a greater sense of security. Every time you pick up your baby, she knows you care about her so don’t hesitate to hold your crying baby.
Better social skills and intellectual development – By carrying your baby on your shoulder and singing a lullaby while you stroke her head and rub her back tenderly, not only are you letting her know that you’ll always be there you’re also having an impact on her social skills and intellectual ability later in life as babies who have a strong bond with their parents find these aspects of life easier as they get older.
So how important is touch? And in the midst of all the chaos that a newborn brings, how do you ensure you are touching your baby enough throughout the day to give them these benefits?
As you can see from these points, touching your baby more often will help them to feel more secure, cry less and thrive more but as a new mom all I remember is just wanting to put down my baby and have a few moments to myself! It felt like the baby was being touched ALL THE TIME. Thinking back I wish I had done more skin-to-skin contact. I definitely did what I could…
My most treasured memories from both my kids births is those few moments – 1 in the bath and the other in the bed – where it felt like it was just me and them as we lay skin-to-skin and locked eyes for the first time to check each other out!
I also tried my best at doing a baby massage every night after bathtime – some nights were better than others! Another great way to ensure more “touch” time is to wear your baby – in a pouch, sling or back-pack. My sister swears by her African Baby Carrier and was pretty much her best baby investment as she’s used it for 18 months!
But let’s be honest – we don’t always get it right and often the baby years whizz by and leave us with so many regrets. Fortunately all is not lost…. in fact it’s never too late to make time for skin-to-skin time. Nowadays I still make time to do this with my kids, even though they are 8 and 5. My daughter and I love to bath together once a week and we make it a special ritual with candles being the highlight. Obviously this isn’t really possible with my son, although we did do it too until we both couldn’t fit in the bath at the same time! Now I make time for him when I help him to apply his body moisturiser every night that combats his eczema (as I have done for 8 years) A little mini massage!
But it’s not just up to you moms – although you’re the ones who worry about this type of thing more. In fact dads need to get in on the action too as each parent has a unique way of touching their children – and BOTH are vitally important!
Research has shown that when mothers touch babies, they are usually soothing and calming. Moms most often touch gently – they stroke softly, rock slowly, and hold their babies tenderly. Fathers tend to engage in more physical forms of touch – they bounce babies on their knees, hold them playfully in the air, or roll around on the floor with them. Babies benefit from these two different styles of touch. Together they contribute to your infant’s healthy development.
As you can see there are so many benefits of touch and it’s clearly so important to give babies (and even older kids) as much skin-to-skin contact as possible!
For a whole host of information about babies’ routines from bath to bed and after… plus how a great “How to Massage” guide that will help to enhance the loving bond between you and your baby, visit the Johnson and Johnson website or follow the hashtag #SoMuchMore on social media.
Note: If you feel that you don’t have the will or energy to create a bond with your newborn, please talk to your clinic sister / doctor. You may be suffering from postnatal depression, a physical condition for which there is help. Don’t think “it’s all in your head” and don’t go through it alone. It’s important – for both your sake and your baby’s sake – that you ask for help.