Attachment Part 2: Incorporating meaningful touch into your child’s life

Happy Hump Day Mama! You’re halfway there..

We hope the New Year’s been treating you kindly 🙂 Today, we’re jumping right in, with Part Two of our series on the importance of physical touch in your child’s development. If you missed Part One when we discussed 25 benefits that come from positive, affirming physical touch, you can catch up here.

Today, we’re taking it a step further, and looking at what we can actually do to incorporate loving, meaningful touch into our little one’s lives.

Kangaroo Care

VIA UNITYPOINT.ORG

Kangaroo Care gets its name from its similarities to marsupial care. It involves a parent holding their swaddled newborn to their bare chest. For children born preterm or with complications, Kangaroo Care has life altering capabilities (6). In the first hour after birth, skin to skin contact is essential for babies to bond with their parents and regulate their vitals (1). This initial skin to skin time is so important in baby’s growth and development that professionals recommend building time for it into your birthing plan, postponing the normal protocol after birth of washing and weighing baby to prioritize skin to skin time (1).

Infant Massage

VIA MOM365

Infant massage is the next stage of important developmental touch after skin to skin. This type of touch is about bonding, love and respect. It’s important to be read baby’s interactions with you during this time; Trust is a key part of this activity, and it goes without saying that baby needs to trust that you’re not going to hurt them, so pay attention to the physical responses your child may be giving you; whether they are positively engaged or disengaged. Children communicate instinctively from their time they’re born, through physical responses before they can talk so it’s important that you learn to read their cues (1).

Good Nights

Creating positive associations with sleep is a vital part of your child’s development, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to build in positive touch with your little one. Goodnight hugs and kisses are quick and easy ways to increase your physical interactions and massaging their head or back while you read them a goodnight story will help them fall asleep faster and feel more connected to you.

Myth Busters: They Don’t Know What They’re Talking About…

How many times has someone (older than you, most likely) told you that you were gonna spoil your baby picking them up too much? This is one of the most common critiques of moms, most especially from well meaning (?) relatives and family friends, who know that you’re going to regret picking that baby up so much when they won’t leave you alone. Umm, what? Thank you for you concern sir, but we’re not doing that let them cry till they can’t no more, no more.

For generations, the myth that holding a baby too much will ‘spoil them’ has persisted. You’ve likey heard it before, and may have even put some stock in it. Nobody wants a ‘spoiled’ kid and technically, it’s true, they have been raising kids longer than us…

There are two parts to the baby spoiling ideology:

  • You should let your baby cry for a while
  • You’re holding them too much

“Let Them Cry”
When an infant cries, they need something. They’re not crying for your attention (they don’t even understand those concepts yet) and they’re not trying to be difficult. Babies only cry as method of meeting their needs. This means if your child is crying, they need something from you; a meal, a diaper, a measuring hug (7). When you allow your child to cry for extended periods of time, without responding to them, you being to send silent messages that their needs are not a priority, or that you may not even notice them. These messages will compound as the child grows, and one subjected to this kind of treatment for prolonged periods will begin to show effects, like struggling to create bonds with others, that will follow them into adulthood.

Sources:
1. https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2013/09/the-benefits-of-touch-for-babies-parents.html
2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/born-love/201003/touching-empathy
3. https://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/health/23mind.html?scp=3&sq=touch&st=cse
4. https://www.americanadoptions.com/adoption/do-orphanages-still-exist 
5. https://www.chla.org/blog/rn-remedies/cuddling-does-kids-and-parents-good 
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5683265/
7. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/infants-attention#1

Attachment Part I: 25 Reasons to Cuddle your Baby

The Importance of Physical Touch and Affection

Part one in a two part series on the effects of physical touch on your baby's growth and development.

Hey Mama, Happy New Year!

As you probably didn’t know, cause, you know, it’s a made-up holiday, National Cuddle Day (!) was on January 6th this year. With that in mind, and in the spirit of new beginnings and healthy habits, we’re going to be kicking off the New Year with a series on the importance of cuddling! Sounds silly, we know but it’s actually a scientific fact that humans, and especially babies, need physical contact for proper development. 

The following have been found to be direct benefits of physical contact for babies:

  1. Regulated heart rate following birth
  2. Regulated temperature following birth
  3. Regulated breathing following birth
  4. Enhanced awareness following birth
  5. Improved sleep patterns for baby (and you too!)
  6. Improved digestion and elimination for baby
  7. Reduced fussiness in baby and increased comfort in their surroundings
  8. Improved neurological function in babies
  9. Increased weight gain for premature and full term babies
  10. Improved relaxation for you and baby (1)
  11. Lays the foundation for baby to learn empathy (2)
  12. Encourages bonding for both parties
  13. Helps baby associate physical touch with pleasure/love
  14. Helps baby create connections with others later in life (2)
  15. Increased levels of oxytocin, decreased levels of cortisol (3)
  16. Increased self confidence later in life (5)
  17. Greater ability to deal with life’s stressors (5)
  18. Creates a healthy sense of personal boundaries (5)
  19. Improved muscle tone + circulation (5)
  20. Improved pulmonary and immune functions
  21. Reduced discomfort from teething, congestion, colic, and emotional stress (5)
  22. Deeper sleep
  23. Improved milk production for mom
  24. Increased brain function from time spent quiet and alert, rather than crying (5)
  25. Greater self worth 

When physical touch is absent during a child’s early life, it can have devastating repercussions. Babies who aren’t huggled, cuddled or touched enough have been observed to stop growing, and in extreme cases, even when being provided adequate nutrition and care otherwise, they have died (2). This phenomenon was most notably observed in overcrowded, underfunded orphanages in early America, where infant mortality rates hovered around 35% (2). This disturbing trend led reformers to replace orphanages with the modern foster care system, in hopes of providing children with a higher quality of life (4).

The benefits of physical touch affect adults too. From an association between winning NBA teams and their physical contact with each other, to adults whose perception and memory of a given situation is actually changed by physical contact, the results are clear (3). In older children, studies found that children who received a positive, affirming touch on the back or arm from a teacher were twice as likely to be positively engaged than students who did not (3). 

But how does this happen? Does it actually work?

It’s a pretty simple chemical process that happens inside our brains thats causes touch to have such far reaching effects. A warm touch has been shown to cause a spike in levels of oxytocin, a stress relieving hormone that actively reduces levels of the nasty little stress hormone cortisol. When levels are lowered, the prefrontal areas of the brain – the part responsible for regulating our emotions – can relax, allowing it to perform it’s other chief function, problem solving, more easily. Essentially, the body interprets this type of touch as saying, ‘I’m here to help; I can share the load’. For little ones, this is endlessly reassuring and will provide the foundation for how they interact with others for the rest of their lives. 

Come back for Part II next week when we’ll be sharing some easy ways to incorporate meaningful touch into your routine with baby and debunking one of the oldest motherhood myths out there! Have a great week mama!

XO,
FAKE MOM