New parents have an innate understanding of their baby's needs, they will instinctively keep their baby close, usually resting them on their chest near to their heart. Read on to find out what a 20 year study has now proven about skin to skin contact.
So much can happen to undermine these instincts, from the process of giving birth in a highly medicalised society, to the outdated yet still prevalent 'baby experts' who tell us we should teach independence from an early age.
Holding your baby in skin to skin contact is soothing for both baby and parents, feels good. From shared warmth and intimacy, the familiar sound of the parent's voice and heartbeat for baby, and raised levels of oxytocin giving you deeply rewarding and reassuring feedback at an emotional and hormonal level. It's healthy and normal human behaviour and anyone can enjoy skin to skin with their baby. Scary Mommy puts it brilliantly in their recent blog - 'Even science agrees you can't spoil a baby'
Recognising that well meaning family members, even health care professionals who comment on how much you hold your baby are probably just repeating what they have heard themselves with no basis in fact, it can still be hard to truly follow your instincts.
And yet we know a baby cannot be independent, they rely on their parent for food, warmth and security, and beyond this they need close contact with a loving care giver to ensure healthy cognitive and emotional development. This period of intense need during the first three months of life is sometimes called the Fourth Trimester. Being responsive to your baby's needs and not leaving them to cry is not going to spoil them! In fact it is going to protect and enhance their development and ensure they have a positive sense of self and greater confidence later in life.
And now newly published research which has tracked the development of babies over 20 years shows that those who receive regular skin to skin contact have higher IQs and are all round more developed than those who did not. The parents in the study who had participated in skin to skin contact were also more responsive and nurturing which led to calmer behaviour and better outcomes academically for their children. This research has been shared far and wide since it's publication in late 2016. So perhaps this year we will begin to see more encouragement and valuing of the power of touch for babies and parents.
We wish you a very Happy New Year and many hours of snuggling your babies close in skin to skin contact.