Wonderful Benefits of Keeping your Baby Close to You for that Amazing First Year
Skin-to-skin contact has been big news among parents in recent years – we know it’s good for babies, but how, exactly? Up until a couple of decades ago parents were encouraged to leave their babies alone for hours at a time, so what has changed? Why are we now told to keep young babies closer to us? There are lots of reasons, and here’s just a few.
Among newborns, close contact is useful because it calms them down. They don’t cry so much and this makes for better sleep. Better sleep helps their brains to develop a bit more efficiently and also stops their parents from suffering too much.
So it benefits parents as well?
Absolutely. As well as lower stress levels, mums who practice close cuddle connections with their babies also have lower levels of depression and anxiety. They can also respond sooner to cues from the baby – learning to anticipate imminent nappy changes and feeding demands. This in turn leads to a greater sense of control and self-esteem in the mother and so the relationship between mum and baby is strengthened. This also applies to dads!
Recent research has shown that among mums who’ve just given birth the temperature of the skin on the chest is a couple of degrees higher than the rest of her body. This helps to keep the newborn warm once out of the womb. It is interesting that research shows us that the mum’s temperature rises and falls in response to the baby’s temperature – cooling if the infant gets too hot and rising if it starts to get chilly.
The chemistry of life
Skin-to-skin contact also releases oxytocin, the bonding chemical. This compound relaxes and rewards human beings. A relaxed mum and baby means a happier family unit.
We often forget that a newborn has just emerged from a cosy cocoon into a world of flashing lights, noises and temperature fluctuations, so close contact and the sound of a familiar heartbeat is that next best thing to that blissful environment having a calming effect on the babies sensori-motor and whole central nervous system.
Close contact means more interactions
Babies learn quickly the fact that people respond to them and being carried around in a soft baby wrap or baby carrier enables them to be close to people. The responses from caregivers and passers-by teach babies that they have a place in the world; that they affect the world and the people around them and that responses are predictable. In each stage of development of their first year as babies interact with a noise, vocalisation or smile they are reaching out to those around them. If their parents and family respond positively and consistently – verbally, or with a smile, or a physical response that meets their babies needs -this forms the vital foundations for relationships and trusting in others. Adults take this for granted, but for a baby it’s a huge lesson.
So keep calm and connected and carry on!