When a healthy baby arrives into the world, their needs are simple – to be fed, sheltered and cleaned. But to truly thrive, the power of and is evident as findings prove touch has a huge impact on physical growth and brain development.
Sifting through the latest parenting magazines as you await your bundle’s arrival, you can be forgiven for thinking your baby requires endless products to make it through infanthood. From bouncers and swings to Sophie the Giraffe and snot suckers (yep, they’re a thing), the paraphernalia is bamboozling, but the most important piece of information you need to remember is a simple one. All your baby really needs… is you.
The power of touch has been examined in studies around the world, with one indicating as little as 15-minutes of massage per day on premature babies increased their daily growth by 47 percent over those left untouched by gentle hands. By the time these babies reached 12-months, those massaged were in a higher weight percentile and scored better in motor and mental assessments.
Early escapees aren’t the only babies that benefit, with studies showing full-term babies sleeping in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers for one hour a day greatly improves quiet sleep. St Francis Xavier University Professor and Researcher of Psychological Development Ann Bigelow suggests these studies indicate improved brain development due to the babies sleeping better and crying less.
The first opportunity to use the power of touch is having skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately following birth. Before cleaning, weighing and measuring, snuggle your baby into your chest with a warm blanket over you both. Not only does this increase infant-mother bonding, it regulates the baby’s body temperature and blood glucose, reduces crying and boosts the infant’s immune system.
Once you’re safely home (post 30-kilometres per hour drive while insisting your partner slow down), factor in infant massage to your daily routine which boosts your baby’s serotonin levels, promotes deeper sleep, and can improve colic and irritability. Get in further skin-to-skin contact by bathing with your baby, which provides the perfect opportunity for both of you to unwind together at the end of the day.
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