When they are born, babies are a concentrate of tenderness: doe eyes, plump cheeks, soft skin and that “good smell”… they are simply irresistible, and not by chance. In this way, in fact, nature stimulates the physical contact and care of the child by the parents.
Perhaps to us, who grew up in the western world – which traditionally follows a low-contact model of maternage – it is not fully clear why physical proximity is so important for the newborn.
In recent years, however, high-contact practices are spreading, such as the use of wraps and carriers for babies: that’s why we thought to talk to you about the fundamental value of these habits for the development of the child.
Physical contact with the newborn: why it matters
Skin is the largest sensory organ of our body: it completely covers us, from head to toe, and is dotted with nerve endings. Those are responsible for touch, the sense that perhaps the first – and most of all – is used by the child to get in touch with the outside world and explore it.
For the newborn, physical contact is a real innate need. First of all because, as we have already said, without being cared for by the parents the baby would not survive. Secondly, it is fundamental for a whole series of reasons that have now been scientifically proven… are you ready to discover them?
Physical contact promotes health and mental development
This is perhaps the element that most of all makes it clear how much the contact with the parents’ body is crucial for the baby.
Think about baby carrier used as a therapy for premature babies. These babies are left to rest for a long time, every day, skin to skin on the breast of their mother or father. Physical contact provides that warmth and containment that the little one needs. This improves its physical and physiological parameters and overall well-being, leading to a faster recovery (also of weight).
Physical skin-to-skin contact also helps babies born at term: it stimulates thermoregulation and immune system, improving overall physical health. Some research has also noted a link between physical closeness and increased cognitive and learning skills – because the child, carried in the wrap or in your arms, is calm but alert and can use sight and hearing to collect interesting signals from the surrounding world.
In short, no wonder if today even in the majority of hospitals newborn babies are left to resto on their mother’s chest – and often, fortunately, also of their father’s – and if tbaby wraps are spreading more and more!
The importance of contact for emotional development
Not only the closeness of the baby to his parents promotes mental and physical development, but also improves emotional development.
It is exactly for this reason that Daniel Stern, a psychiatrist who studied the mother-child relationship in depth, said that “The ultimate magic of attachment is physical contact. And this magic passes through the skin. “
Contrary to what the low-contact model claims, infants who are often worn in the wraps display a sense of security and confidence that will help their independence when they grow up.
In addition, these children are also more likely to develop a secure attachment to their parents: this means that they will have a bond of deep love but that they will be open to others and to explore the world as they grow up.
Without going too far, however, you will have noticed it too: when you put your baby in the wrap, he cries less and is much more relaxed … this is because physical contact decreases his stress levels. On the other hand, think about it: when you are angry, agitated or sad … what’s better than a long hug from a person you love?
What about the parents?
Let’s not forget that physical contact with the newborn is also important for parents! Being so close to your child, right from the start, allows you to get to know him better and to create that bond that will last a lifetime.
If the baby is premature or has particular problems, skin-to-skin contact will help mom and dad to feel useful immediately and to establish a connection that would not be possible if he remained in the incubator all the time.
In any case, however, physical contact gives moments of closeness that would otherwise be lost. By keeping the baby in the wrap, for example, you will be able to feel his smell or the softness of his skin, but also to understand his needs more directly. Your communication will also develop on the physical level, not only on the verbal and visual plane.
In short: contact is good for both children and adults!
Not just mom: physical contact with dad
When one thinks about caring for the child or putting him in the wrap, the mother immediately comes to mind. Of course, she is the most “immediate” caregiver – both for cultural issues and for her natural ability to breastfeed.
Physical contact, however, can and must be with both, mom and dad!
Some research has in fact shown that baby carrying is effective even when the father does it: the relaxing and beneficial effect on the child is the same.
In addition, if it is true that the mother comes into contact with the baby every time she breastfeeds him, it is also true that the father can intervene when she is tired, welcoming and physically containing him.
He too can use the baby wrap, to interact closely with his baby and lay the foundations for a strong relationship – the first that the baby will tighten outside the “symbiosis” with the mother and that will serve as a guide for all those who will come later.
In light of this information, you can understand that – despite what grandmothers and aunts can tell you – physical contact is not a vice. Instead, it is a growth tool for the child, which promotes his well-being from all points of view … therefore: long life to skin-to-skin hugs and baby wraps!