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A series of reports and research papers have now been published and, over the past few years, have found that cuddling your baby is actually extremely beneficial for their development. Contrary to some earlier studies that said cuddling too much would spoil the baby. So cuddle away because nurture and love win!
Have you ever been in a situation where you have been holding your newborn baby, and a know-it-all family member or friend has told you that you are “spoiling” them by nurturing them every time they get upset?
If so, we’ve got some great news for you – new reports indicate this is a load of nonsense.
As well as keeping them warm, holding and cuddling your baby activates oxytocin and stimulates their brains. There is also the added benefit of increasing the bond between parent and child.
Other findings have suggested that prolonged cuddling helps to regulate breathing and heart rates, while it also aids growth and weight gain. All of these findings are overwhelmingly positive and make the know-it-alls look rather daft.
These reports also look at children who didn’t have much physical attention as a baby. Findings suggest that these children are more prone to behavioral and emotional problems as they grow up.
One of the most important studies in relation to this topic came in 2017 at a Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Researchers observed 125 premature and full-term infants to see how they reacted to gentle and not-so-gentle touch.
Gentle touch was quantified as the type of loving contact a baby receives from a parent, for example cuddling while not-so-gentle touch was quantified as things like medical procedures.
After observation, it was discovered that infants who had been touched gently showed more brain response than infants who had received the non-gentle interaction. This goes to show how important it is for babies to get as much loving contact as possible from an early age for brain development.
Dr. Nathalie Maitre, the lead Researcher on the study, says in the official report that touch is particularly important for premature babies:
“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.”
“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.”
A further report in 2020 has provided more evidence that there is no such thing as holding your baby “too much”. This report by Anne Bigelow and Lela Rankin Williams at Arizona State University and St. Francis Xavier University in Canada found that infant-caregiver closeness activates oxytocin and nerve fiber pathways.
They also found that staying physically close to their baby helps parents to understand their newborn better. This helps when it comes to responding to their baby’s movements and the bonding process.
All in all, do what you think is best for your child. However, do NOT under any circumstances let someone tell you ever again that you are “spoiling” your child or giving them “unrealistic expectations” by cuddling them and nurturing them when they are crying.
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