Why You Can Never Hold Your Baby Too Much, According to Science

holding your baby

Babies are pretty much the cuddliest, most adorable people on earth. But if you're a parent, chances are you have at least one old-school relative who's constantly warning you not to pick up your little bundle of joy too often or else he or she'll get "spoiled." Most modern parents realize that type of advice is BS, but now there's also a scientific reason Aunt Mildred should get off your case about "spoiling" the baby. A new study proves there's no such thing as holding babies too much -- in fact, it's good for them.


The study, which took place at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, showed that touch is a crucial part of a baby's development and actually has serious benefits. Researchers evaluated 125 infants, some of whom were full-term and some who were premature. They measured the babies' brain responses to puffs of air to see how they responded to gentle touch.

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What they found is that premature babies respond less strongly to touch than those who were born full-term. But, interestingly, premature babies who had an increased amount of gentle touch from their parents and NICU caregivers actually responded more strongly to the puffs of air than premature babies who weren't touched or held as often. The study also found that babies who had painful medical procedures in their earliest days tend to have weaker responses to touch.

So, what does all of this mean?

According to Dr. Nathalie Maitre, lead scientist on the study, it means being touched and held actually makes a permanent impact on babies' brains, and that can have a lasting impact on their cognitive development, communication, and behavior later in life.

"Our findings add to our understanding that more exposure to these types of supportive touch can actually impact how the brain processes touch, a sense necessary for learning and social-emotional connections," she told Fox News.

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The idea that you can "spoil" a baby by holding him too much has been around for decades. Luckily, thanks to things like attachment parenting and an increased focus on skin-to-skin contact, most parents don't adhere to that advice. In fact, the majority of us are too busy trying to squeeze in as many snuggles in as possible before our babies grow up and don't want to be seen hugging us in public anymore.

The instinct to touch, hold, and cuddle our babies is so strong, and as this study proves, there's an important reason for that. Our gentle touches and hugs are literally shaping the way babies experience and respond to the world around them. So, next time great-grandma gets on your case about picking up the baby too often, rest assured that you're actually doing exactly the right thing.

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