5 benefits of touch for you and your baby
"Touch is the first language and the last" Margaret Atwood
Did you know that babies develop their sense of touch as early as 16 weeks?, giving them their first experience with their surrounding environment. Once the little bundle of joy has made their grand entrance earth side it is hard not to want to smother them in kisses, cuddles and stroking of their soft skin. Through this contact, newborns are able to learn about their world, bond with their caregiver and communicate their needs and wants. And luckily the effect of all this loving touch is essential to a babies development in a number of ways... and not just in the short term.
The importance of skin to skin contact the moment babies are born is well known and amongst its many benefits is helping babies to grow! Studies show it dramatically increases newborn weight gain as when babies are warm, they don't need to use their energy to regulate their body temperature, they can use that energy to grow instead. Plus it increases breastfeeding rates, which can't hurt healthy weight gain either.
2. Language and cognitive skills
When parents engage in appropriate touch, young children have improved chances to successfully develop socially, emotionally, and intellectually. In fact, infants who experience more physical contact with caregivers demonstrate increased mental development in the first six months of life compared to young children who receive limited physical interaction. This improved cognitive development has been shown to last even after eight years!
3. Emotional regulation and secure attachments
As well as the cognitive benefits, skin-to-skin contact lets children know that they’re safe and protected, building trust between child and parent. Through the physical contact with adults, strong attachments can be created, thus providing a stable foundation for future relationships. The physiological effects of loving touch are like a wonder drug for the brain! Touching lowers the stress hormone cortisol, and boosts “feel-good” endorphins, along with oxytocin, the ‘love drug’, largely responsible for bonding behaviour. Infants who receive above-average levels of affection from their mothers are shown to be less likely to be hostile, anxious, or emotionally distressed as adults. And not only do these close bonding experiences benefit the baby, mothers’ depression levels also decreases. Babies who do not receive adequate human interaction—and especially loving touch—can suffer later on.
4. A stronger immune system
Physical contact can also lower cortisol levels for both mothers and children, thereby leading to improved immune system functioning, lowered blood pressure and increased circulation.
5. Lowers pain
Researchers have also shown that the simple act of gently stroking your baby reduces activity in their brain associated with painful experiences. A study found that the optimal pain-reducing stroking speed was about 3cm per second and that parents intuitively stroke their babies at this optimal speed. Sensory neurons in the skin are activated which have an analgesic effect and help reduce pain.
How to incorporate touch into your daily lives
‘Of course we touch our babies!’ you may say. Touch is a natural part of nearly everything that us parents do - we cannot bathe them, change their nappies or get them dressed without touching them. BUT procedural, passing touch is not enough - for babies to truly thrive, they need to be held and touched soothingly. The good news is there are plenty of ways to incorporate touch into our family lives.
Skin to skin - If you are looking for an excuse not to have to get dressed then this is it!! There are worse things than lying around half naked with a baby on your chest and don’t forget to get dad involved too!
Babywearing - Wearing your baby in a stretchy wrap or sling is the easiest way to keep them in close kissable contact whilst still being able to get the never ending chores accomplished!
Infant massage - Better health, improved sleep, increased bonding, and overall wellbeing…. need I go on? There are so many amazing benefits to baby massage, and it needn’t be complicated - Neu Oil blends are easy to apply oil directly to skin and massage in however feels natural to you and your baby (more detailed massage techniques can be found on our website).
So it is safe to conclude that we ALL posses this incredible innate superpower of a healing touch! By continually providing this kind, nurturing touch, we’re able to deeply connect to others, to comfort, to calm, to heal and to give and to receive love.
Of course some days you might find yourself touched-out by some of the long days and nights. Our YOU range of oils can help you practice self care in taking some time for you so that you get enough of a separation to appreciate in advance the benefits of all your attachment parenting efforts.