I recently attended a talk by neuroscience and child development expert Nathan Wallis. (If you live in New Zealand and you get a chance to attend his talk I would highly recommend it!)
He talked about the neuroscience behind a lot of the things I discuss with you here: positive communication with our kids, the importance of good attachment, and stages of brain development. One of the things Nathan covered was the importance of touch in those crucial first 1000 days of baby’s life.
He pointed out how much babies need face-to-face contact with a loving, responsive adult, and how it has been shown on brain scans that being held in our arms calms our baby’s tiny, distressed brains down in 40 seconds.
This is compared to the 40 minutes it takes for babies to calm themselves down when left alone. That’s a huge difference! It just shows how much of an impact we can have as parents.
What babies really need
So babies don’t need fancy toys, reading flashcards, or stimulating music for brain development. The need us. Face to face.
They need to be in our arms. They need us to calm them, talk to them, cuddle with them.
According to Nathan, they need us to “spoil and indulge them”.
Science tells us it’s impossible to spoil a baby, he says. The more we meet their needs, respond to their cries, pay them attention and give them loving touch and interactions the better it is for their brains.
When your baby cries you are not spoiling them by picking them up, you are facilitating their brain development!
I will be covering more about brain development in the early years in another post, but today I wanted to share with you my article, published recently in Family Times magazine, on the power of touch.
The importance of hugs
One of the most important gifts you can give your child to help them grow, learn and thrive socially as well as emotionally, is a hug.
People need physical touch. In society, we have become very conscious of child protection issues, we have forgotten how essential appropriate, loving touch is for our children. For our kids to grow up happy and healthy, we need to ensure we are giving them plenty of cuddles!
Hugs help you grow
The first time you hold your baby will probably be skin-to-skin – your tiny fresh newborn snuggled up against your chest. Hospitals started encouraging this when research revealed the power of this close contact which actually helps to regulate your newborn’s breathing and heart rate, calms them, and helps with bonding, growth, and feeding. This is true for both mums and dads giving their baby skin-to-skin time.
Baby carrying and co-sleeping are other ways to get in extra cuddle times.
Try stripping your baby down to their nappy and snuggling them against your bare chest under a blanket or warm top, making sure they can breathe clearly. Don’t fall asleep with bub on your chest though. (Read up on safe ways to co-sleep beforehand.)
With baby carrying, it’s best for both you and bub to use an ergonomically designed carrier or wrap: one that spreads babies weight across their legs and also supports your back.
Cuddles make relationships stronger
Physical touch is one of the five ‘Love Languages’ according to Dr Gary Chapman. These are ways that people feel and express love. When you hold your child, stroke their hair, or pat their back they feel loved.
Your baby’s understanding of the world comes mostly from touch. It’s how they feel safe, comforted, loved and how they express love.
Touch is also crucial for social and behavioural development. Through loving touch, children make strong, positive attachments. In fact, not getting enough touch puts kids at high risk for social, behavioural, and emotional problems.
Building a strong sense of attachment, love, and connection to you through touch will give your child the healthy base they need for future friendships and relationships.
A loving squeeze calms a tantrum
Little children are not only learning how to eat, move, and talk but are also learning how to manage their own emotions and self-regulate. Hugging and rocking your crying child helps them to learn to calm and comfort themselves.
When young children (or even older children with special needs) are having trouble calming down, try wrapping a blanket around them and giving them a firm, loving hug from behind. Being held in a warm, tight embrace like this has been shown to be incredibly calming for some children.
Whether it’s a full hug, a kiss on the check, or sitting arm-to-arm watching a movie, giving your kids as much loving touch as you can is incredibly beneficial for both them and you!
As published in Family Times http://www.familytimes.co.nz/cuddle-time/
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Until next time!