NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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Babies, Babies, Babies!

babies, child development, parenting young babies

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Community Wellness

Maybe it’s just me, but everywhere I look I see young babies and pregnant mothers. It seems this isn’t just my imagination. According to North Dakota Compass, the 2000 data showed a total young population (age 0-4) was 394 and the most recent Mercer County data shows 575. ND Compass provides and promotes the use of credible data to improve the quality of life in North Dakota.

Research during the past several years tells us that babies cannot be spoiled by being held.

Infants are armed only with sounds to get our attention, so crying when they want to eat, or need a pat on the back, a clean diaper or some good company makes perfect sense. When we answer their calls quickly and attend to their needs lovingly, babies learn to trust their caregivers and their world. When infants need care, we handle them, we touch them, we hold them close.

Brain research continues to uncover more reasons we need to pay attention to the important role touch plays in child development, plus all of the other benefits of touch to babies, children and even grown-ups.

Once the importance of touch was documented, hospitals began to screen and train trusted volunteers to hold and rock newborns. Another form of touch used in hospitals is kangaroo care, practiced when parents holds their premature newborn skin to skin to help the infant conserve and use all of his or her tiny preemie power to develop and gain weight. All the while, the parents warm the child with their own body heat, which helps the child regulate his or her heart and breathing rate, and provides comfort so the child spends less time crying and more time in restful sleep.

The benefits of this type of skin-to-skin holding originally adopted for the first 6 months of life for children born prematurely has since been deemed beneficial for full-term infants for the first three months of life as well.

Science, for comparison, often looks to children who do not receive holding or nurturing as infants and young babies. These are children raised in difficult situations or orphanages.

These children have much higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and unusual levels of hormones that regulate social behaviors. For some children, social relationships and emotional regulation can be difficult, even years later. Children learn quickly that when someone engages with them, they matter and they can impact another person and their own environment. Those are powerful and important thoughts for such a young human.

Scientists are studying how holding infants can impact their genes. You don’t need to wait for all the research on this one. Babies need holding, and often healthy adults are waiting for their turn to hold a baby.

For additional information on parenting young babies and children, check out the NDSU Extension Service’s Children, Families and Finances website at www.ag.ndsu.edu/cff.

Sources: Kim Bushaw, NDSU family science specialist; https://www.ndcompass.org/

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