The power of touch: Skin-to-skin benefits babies up to 20 YEARS later a study has found
All the snuggles.
If you have ever had people tell you how you are spoiling your baby by holding him too much – here is you permission to shove this in their faces.
Not only are cuddles with mum or dad good for bonding, soothes baby, reminds you all to slow down, etc. etc. But, a more recent study has also shown that the perks of all this touch and skin-and-skin contact actually last long after baby is big enough to run and play on her own – in fact, all the way into adulthood.
According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, when parents practiced “Kangaroo Mother Care” with their premature babies, the little ones went on to perform better in school, register higher IQs and have preferable behavioural outcomes—even 20 years later.
For the study, researchers followed up with 441 young adults who had participated in a mother-infant bonding trial when they were premature newborns. The researchers found that the young adults of parents who practised Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) had “reduced school absenteeism and reduced hyperactivity, aggressiveness, externalization, and socio-deviant conduct of young adults.”
And look, it's important to note that although it’s called “Kangaroo Mother Care,” fathers are also able to do it, which the researchers say creates better paternal bonding.
The researchers discovered via neuroimaging that the young adults who benefitted from skin-to-skin time as babies had larger areas of grey matter in their brains, which is know to promote processing.
Another really key find from the study is that the benefits weren't only seen in the children. The researchers also discovered that the parents who practised KMC were also more protective and nurturing in comparison to parents from the sample group that didn’t do KMC.
This, the study authors speculate, is because “KMC seems to motivate families to become more child-oriented.”
“This study indicates that KMC had significant, long-lasting social and behavioral protective effects 20 years after the intervention... We hypothesize that the results would be even more significant if KMC was introduced as soon as the infant could tolerate it, even in ICUs. This new knowledge must be used to extend KMC coverage to the 18 million preterm and LBWI born each year, who are candidates for KMC. We firmly believe that this is a powerful, efficient, scientifically based health intervention that can be used in all settings.”