Ever wondered why in movies we watch when a baby is born, they are given to the mother, most of the time, immediately after birth, even before they are cleaned up? Turns out it is to allow skin to skin contact.
Touch is important for babies. In fact, studies show that this is the first sense to develop. Touch has many benefits for adults which include showing support and creating relationships and babies are no exception.
Here are some of the ways babies benefit from skin-to-skin contact.
From the first warm and gentle human touch in a new environment, babies start forming trusting bonds because they feel protected and safe. Self-soothing is something that babies do when in an alien environment so when they experience touch from another its works even better.
This also increases the mother’s relaxation hormones after giving birth. Nowadays fathers are encouraged to have skin-to-skin contact with their children as it helps them bond.
Regulate body functions
Physical touch helps regulate your baby’s heart rate, temperature, breathing.
Babies communicate from day 1 through behaviour and sounds. One of the behavioural forms of communication is through touch, so if this interaction is deprived by the caregiver they can get bored and lonely.
Stimulation for development
There is some amount of stimulation that babies need to promote normal and healthy physical, emotional and mental development. Their behaviour towards themselves and others also stems from this interaction.
When someone is touched, the nerve endings are stimulated which releases chemicals such as serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin. These chemicals produce pleasant feeling and sensations which is also called “love hormones”, which keeps them happy.
Babies sleep better when gently carried, stroked or held close. This regulates their sleep and reduces stress or anxiety. This calming effect is soothing to the bundle of joy and more often they reciprocate by touching or holding the parent back.
Babies that are deprived of physical touch, such as hugging and holding fail to thrive thus stunting their growth. Moreover, lack of physical interaction can increase the chances of behavioural and social problems when older if they live long enough.
While touch for mothers and their babies may come naturally and is almost inevitable, dads have to be intentional about holding their babies to allow bonding and the other benefits of touch. Touch for a baby can be as small as holding their hand. Get into the habit of showing love to the babies in your environment by constantly holding them especially when their parents may be busy or exhausted.