If you love holding your baby endlessly, here is more reason you should continue. It's the doctor's orders after all!
A study from The University of British Columbia proves that the constant contact between infants and their caregivers can affect them on a molecular level.
When you hold your baby for a long time, you are actually changing their DNA. Yes, you read that right!
The study reveals that babies with less physical contact can end up distressed. In fact, lack of touch changes their molecular profile. And as a result, they remain biologically underdeveloped.
Holding your baby: Scientists say do it!
To work on this data, scientists studied 94 babies for four years.
Parents in the study were instructed to keep a journal about their baby's behaviour. They noted their baby's eating habits, sleeping patterns and even their crying. They also revealed exactly how often they physically consoled their baby.
After four years, the scientists checked the babies' DNAs by swabbing their cheeks. This helped them examine "a biochemical modification called DNA methylation." These are molecules that keep a track of maturation of active genes.
As expected, the results were astounding!
Yes! Holding your baby can help them grow faster
Kids who received less physical contact by their parents had a lower “epigenetic age.” This means that their molecular maturation was slow. The team also found that babies who were not held that often faced negative health implications at a cellular level.
Sarah Moore, lead author and a postdoctoral fellow on the case explained, “If further research confirms this initial finding, it will underscore the importance of providing physical contact, especially for distressed infants.”
This study published in the November issue of Development and Psychopathology, has come as a sweet reminder that holding your baby has more benefits that you think.
Although there are studies that have proved that human touch can help babies grow and develop faster, this is the first to prove it on a molecular level. Naturally, this is great news for parents who love to cuddle and hold their babies.
But just in case you needed a reminder, here's why hugging your child is the best gift you can give him.
5 scientific reasons you should hug your babies more often
In case you needed more scientific evidence to hug your babies, these are for you!
- Touch makes them smarter. A recent study by the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, US, proves that babies who receive physical touch show "stronger brain response."
- Hugging helps them grow. A study by the University of California proves that hugs release the hormones oxytocin. This hormone in turn pushes several other growth hormones such as insulin growth factor-I (IGF-1) and nerve growth factor (NGF).
- It keeps them healthy. A 2013 study reveals that hugs make babies stronger. The oxytocin released by hugs lowers plasma levels of thyroid hormones as well as the level of cortisol.
- Cuddling stops temper tantrums: Hugs can also help you control temper tantrums because they are emotional outbursts that kids cannot regulate. So hugging a child when he is throwing a tantrum releases oxytocin, reduces stress and calms him.
- It makes them more resilient. A study reveals that when a child is exposed to excessive stress, it can compromise his immune system and lower his memory power. So hugging your kids keeps their emotions elevated. That in turn helps them regulate their brains and makes them more resilient.
Incidentally, this research has not come as a shock to us parents. After all, we love cuddling our babies. We can always use one more reason to keep the hugs coming. So snuggle up!