Turns Out You Can Never Hold Your Baby 'Too Much,' Because Duh

by Julie Scagell
Originally Published: 
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According to study, holding your baby early and often has benefits later in life

I never understood the concept that you can hold a baby “too much.” That somehow all the closeness in the early years will cause your child to turn into a clingy, overly dependent adult. Babies are meant to be snuggled—a lot. Otherwise why would their heads smell so delicious? Babies are teeny little adorable blobs of squishiness that MUST BE SQUEEZED all of the time. It turns out now there is actual research to back this up.

Research reported in the journal Current Biology shows that touch is critical to a baby’s development and these touches remain like a footprint on their brains. Early touch has been shown to have lasting effects on their response to gentle touch later in life, and may be even more important for preterm infants.

“Our findings add to our understanding that more exposure to these types of supportive touch can actually impact how the brain processes touch, a sense necessary for learning and social-emotional connections,” said Dr. Nathalie Maitre of the their findings.

The study at Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital studied 125 infants born preterm, at a gestational age of 24 to 36 weeks, and full-term babies born from 38 to 42 weeks. Researchers used a gentle puff of air and then a “fake” puff of air and measured the babies’ brain responses to both. Their research showed that premature babies who were in the neonatal ICU and had an increased amount of gentle contact with parents and caregivers had a stronger response to touch than the preterm infants who did not receive as much gentle contact.

The study also showed the babies who had experienced painful medical procedures had a decreased response to gentle touch later in life. “What is surprising is that painful procedures which are known to impact processing of pain in the brain also impact processing of touch, in a negative way,” Maitre told Fox News.

The study concluded that gentle touch for all newborns, especially those born premature, may help develop building blocks they will need for cognition, communication and behavior later in life. We say just have all of the snuggles as much as humanly possible because your kids are only that small once. If I could figure out a way to wear my five year old around in a sling, dammit, I would try it. Don’t even start with me people, HE IS MY LAST and I am not above strapping him to me.

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