You know how sometimes you just need a hug? Well in addition to the feel-good vibes they give us, it turns out that humans have a biological need for touch—especially babies.
A recent study looked at the effects of touch on 125 premature and full-term babies. Specifically, the researchers were interested in the ways that the babies’ brains responded to different types of touch. They found that, in general, premature babies’ brains responded less to gentle touch than full-term babies—in other their words, their brains were not as stimulated by touch as full-term babies. However, the premature babies that received a lot of gentle touch from their parents and caregivers responded much more to touch moving forward. And this translates into health benefits for the babies as they grow—less risk for infection, less crying and better breathing, to name a few.
So what does this mean for you and your sweet baby? Permission to snuggle as much as you can.
Having a premature baby who spends time in the NICU can be incredibly stressful— moms describe feeling nervous and powerless during their NICU journey. But this research proves just how powerful you really are. By simply being with your baby and touching them lightly in whatever way you can, you are providing tremendous benefits to your baby that will stay with them forever. You truly are a super hero, just by being you and showing your baby how much you love them.
If your baby goes to the NICU, you are absolutely allowed to ask to go visit them and even stay with them, often. Many NICU babies can still be breastfed (sometimes with the help of a few pieces of equipment). And more and more hospitals are becoming really supportive and encouraging of kangaroo care, where you “wear” you baby on your chest providing skin-to-skin touch for long periods of time.
So don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak-up about spending time with your baby. And NEVER doubt how amazing your love for you baby really is. You’ve got this, mama. And we’ve got your back.