It’s only natural for a parent to want to hold their newborn baby, but do you know what happens if an infant is not held or touched? Believe it or not, they die. Now, I realize that it is unlikely any parent would purposely neglect touching their infant, but some parents are hesitant to pick their baby up too frequently.
The fact is, you can’t touch or hold your infant too much. The more skin-to-skin contact they receive, the better. This is especially true at the early developmental stages. Infants who do not receive any skin-to-skin contact within the first few days or weeks of being born are at the greatest risk for health problems as a result.
The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact
There are numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact for newborn babies. Studies have found that infants who are touched freuqnetly are more relaxed and sleep better because they produce less of the stree-hormone cortisol. Infants who are touched also begin breastfeeding more easily and gain weight and grow faster than infants that are not touched enough.
Why is Touch So Important?
The reason why touch is so important to newborn babies is actually quite simple: When a mother first picks up her newborn baby, a chain reaction of hormones are set off in the infants body. These hormones are responsible for triggering all of the benefits mentioned above. If an infant is not touched enough in the early stages of development, they will not go through the necessary hormonal changes they need to be healthy, both physically and psychologically.
Do Both Parents Have to Touch the Infant?
It is not absolutely necessary for both the mother and father to touch the infant in order for it to be healthy and survive, but both parents should. It is not uncommon for the mother to touch and hold their baby more than the father, but the father’s touch is still very important, especially for forming a bond between the parent and child.
What Happens if an Infant is Never Touched?
The answer to this is quite simple: Eventually, the child will die. I know it sounds hard to believe but this is a fact. If an infant is completely deprived of skin-to-skin contact, they will die from marasmus, which is basically a severe form of malnutrition. In fact, in certain cases, doctors have been able to reverse marasmus simply by moving the infant into a more nurturing environment.
How Much Touching is Necessary?
There is no exact measurement of touching that is considered adequate or necessary, but you should at least touch your infant several times per day. You don’t always have to pick them up and hold them, either. The most important thing is that it is skin-to-skin contact, which can be as simple as rubbing their forehead or brushing their cheeks with your fingers.