Every parent has received unsolicited advice on how to raise their babies, but it seems new mothers are the ones most inundated with a never-ending stream of unwanted "words of wisdom" from people who have “been there and done that.” One of the most common pieces of "advice" most new moms hear is that they shouldn't hold their baby too much out of fear of spoiling them! It seems many people think that spoiling a baby with love and attention is a bad thing! Most people mean well but we often think it would be best if they'd just keep their advice to themselves.
While there have been many studies over the years disputing the fact that you are going to spoil your baby by comforting them when they need you, people still tell new mothers they shouldn't hold their baby too much so as to teach them independence. A new study published in Current Biology states that holding your baby, and touching them and caressing them not only doesn't “spoil” them but actually acts as a stress reliever.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford and Liverpool John Moores University looked at 32 babies as they had blood drawn from their heels. Half of the babies were stroked with a soft brush prior to having the blood drawn, and as a result, showed 40% less pain activity in their brain that the other half of the babies who received no tactile comfort.
"Touch seems to have analgesic potential without the risk of side-effects," author Rebecca Slater said, reports the BBC. "If we can better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of techniques like infant massage, we can improve the advice we give to parents on how to comfort their babies."
She also said the study could support the need for kangaroo care, which was previously used as a form of skin on skin bonding for premature babies and their parents but may also provide pain relief as well for the baby, and supports the need for more skin and touch-based bonding with parents and infant. "Previous work has shown that touch may increase parental bonding, decrease stress for both the parents and the baby, and reduce the length of hospital stay," said Prof Slater.
The authors of the study plan to focus on premature babies next to see just how much of an impact holding and touching can have.
"We already know that positive touch - such as skin-to-skin care - makes a real difference directly to babies in neonatal care and also helps parents to bond with their baby," Caroline Lee-Davey, chief executive at the premature and sick baby charity Bliss told the BBC, explaining she was all for seeing this kind of research.
"This new research suggests that parental touch could also help to alleviate pain in infants and Bliss is delighted to be funding Oxford University to do more research specifically on reducing pain in premature babies through the use of parental touch, from the new year. Many people do not realize just how many medical procedures a baby in neonatal care goes through during their hospital stay," she explained. "Anything that can reduce a baby's discomfort is a huge step forward in this underfunded area of research."
So the next time someone tells you not to go to your crying baby or not to hold your baby too much because you may be "spoiling" them, rest assured that not only are you not spoiling them, you're actually providing them with much-needed comfort.