Touch is an important part of a baby’s development.Have you ever wondered why picking your baby up feels like the most instinctive thing in the world? Turns out we are hard-wired to do so, it’s our maternal instinct to carry a baby. When a baby is born, he or she is very vulnerable, with highly limited vision and underdeveloped hearing. This means that touch is the way your little one is going to explore the world for the first couple of months while other senses are starting to develop.
In a recent study carried out by Nathalie Maitre of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center and her colleagues measured the brain responses of 125 infants (including premature and full-term babies) and showed that a baby’s earliest experiences of touch have lasting effects on the way their young brains respond to gentle touch.
The results showed that preemies had a reduced brain response to gentle touch than full-term babies. However, preemie babies in the NICU had a stronger brain response to touch when they spent more time in gentle contact with their parents or healthcare providers.
“Making sure that preterm babies receive positive, supportive touch such as skin-to-skin care by parents is essential to help their brains respond to gentle touch in ways similar to those of babies who experienced an entire pregnancy inside their mother’s womb,”.When a baby is held skin-to-skin against the chest of an adult, usually one of the parents, showed better cognitive and executive skills in repeated testing from 6-months to ten years.