Parents should remember to never underestimate the power of positive touch especially if their babies had to go through difficult medical procedures.
Hugging someone is a magical feeling that makes us feel warm and loved inside. The positive impact hugging had on us is being felt now more than ever when all of us are forced to remain six feet away from each other. There are so many more benefits that come with hugging, especially when it comes to the development of children. Research published in Science Daily found that showing physical affection to babies had a lasting impact on them. It could lead to not only a better-developed brain but also help in the infant's normal sensory development, the researchers stated.
As part of the study, researchers recruited 125 babies who were born prematurely, age 24 to 36 weeks, and full-term infants born at 38 to 42 weeks. They measured the brain responses these babies had to touch. Using a soft EEG net, the researchers first measured the babies' brain responses to a puff of air and then compared it to a "fake" puff. They found that preterm babies had a lower response to this touch than full-term babies. Further analysis found that brain response to touch was stronger when babies in the neonatal intensive care units (NICU) spent more time in gentle contact either with their parents or even 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," Nathalie Maitre of Nationwide Children's Hospital and Vanderbilt University Medical Center stated. "When parents cannot do this, hospitals may want to consider occupational and physical therapists to provide a carefully planned touch experience, sometimes missing from a hospital setting." This is especially important considering the contrasting results found with premature babies.
Researchers noted that the more painful the medical procedures premature infants had to endure, the less their brain responded to gentle touch later. It did not matter that the babies were given pain medications and sugar to make those procedures easier to endure. This especially has a bearing on the implications for the care received by the 15 million infants born prematurely each year. Having to spend the first few days of their life in the impersonal environment of the NICU could have a detrimental impact on them. "We certainly hoped to see that more positive touch experiences in the hospital would help babies have a more typical perception of touch when they went home," Maitre said. "But, we were very surprised to find out that if babies experience more painful procedures early in life, their sense of gentle touch can be affected."
The findings of this research can now allow healthcare professionals to design better ways to go about providing better positive touch for babies in NICU. The researchers would like to remind parents to never underestimate the power of touch. Hug your kids as much as you can. It will not only help form a better bond with your child, but it has also been proven that it can make your child smarter and healthier. Kids who were held for 20 minutes per day for 10 weeks seemed to do better in terms of brain development, as per Exchange Family Center. So go find your child and show them you love them by giving them a warm hug.
While hugs are great and do make people feel better, it is also important to teach your child that it is okay to say no to hugs or being touched if it makes them uncomfortable. Especially from strangers.