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April 2, 2018 Touch Important to Babies

Dates to Remember

April 7 & 8                 State 4-H Horse Events
April 7                        State 4-H Indoor Archery Championships
April 9                        Spring Fever Garden Forums
April 12                      Soil Conservation District Meeting
April 23                      Youth for the Quality Care of Animals Training (4-H)

Touch Important to Babies

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. Researchers are trying to determine if the issue orphaned children often suffer most from is lack of touch rather than not having a parent.

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. Other research on mechanosensory stimulation, also known simply as touch, shows that it stimulates growth and development in infants, improving mental and motor skills, and lessening regurgitation.

Scientists are studying how holding infants even can impact their genes. But 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. For information on research about holding infants and the impact on genes, visit https://tinyurl.com/holdinginfants.

 

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