The concept of skin-to-skin contact for newborn babies has been around for a long time. The medical and scientifically proven benefits are numerous, but it shouldn’t stop at newborn care. The impact of touch is a powerful factor in many aspects of a child’s development.
What science says
Science has shown that physical touch, like hugging, has a powerful effect on infants’ mental, emotional, and physical development, both short and long term. When a baby is born, its sense of touch is one of its best-developed senses. Of course, it isn’t fully developed at birth, but the newborn can certainly feel touch better than what they can hear, see or taste.
The part of the brain critical to a sense of touch is called the somatosensory cortex. The somatosensory cortex has two areas, one on each side of the brain. The somatosensory map is influenced by our genetics and is present in the baby at birth. After birth, the child’s experiences allow them to fine-tune these abilities further. This means that your child will continue to develop and perfect its sense of touch through infancy. To do this, it will need to be exposed to lots of different touch stimuli and experiences.
The importance of a hug
There are so many benefits to hugging your baby and toddler. The brain requires lots of stimulation for robust growth. Hugs activate and stimulate neural development, which is essential for your child’s physical, mental and emotional health. They also help improve your child’s immune system – as science has shown the correlation between emotional wellbeing and a person’s ability to fight off disease.
Besides the physical aspects, hugging your child regularly will also:
- Lead to better emotional health
- Boost confidence in your child at an early age
- Give your child a sense of security
- Make your child feel important
Toptots Early Learning SA