Science says you won’t spoil your new babe with too many hugs. The warmth and comfort of a loved one’s touch feeds them with feel-good factors that boost their development while they get used to life outside of your womb. According to pediatric experts, touch is one of the first senses that babies discover and this human connection is attributed to faster weight gain, shorter hospital stays, more stable body temperatures and improved language skills, which is good news for babies. In fact, since the 1990s cuddling programs (with a thorough screening process in place for interested volunteers) have been popping up in NICU’s across North America to assist with the gentle touch that helps preemies get a head start.
There are many ways to indulge in this loving and sensory connection encouraged by doctors and scientists alike. Whether breast or formula fed, feeding time brings on the kind of closeness that can spark a baby’s development by helping wee ones to relax. Specifically, try kangaroo care, or skin-on-skin contact, while feeding or reading a book before bed.
“One of the biggest benefits of touch is its ability to create relationships between baby and their caregivers,” says Michelle Francis-Smith, a registered massage therapist who specializes in perinatal and infant massage. If you are the main caregiver who is busy feeding and rocking your wee one to sleep, your partner can shine as the baby’s massage expert. “It encourages eye contact and connection and gives them an opportunity to learn baby’s subtle cues like what each of their cries and movements mean. It’s a daily activity that can be put on the menu after bath time.”
While you’re in the midst of newborn euphoria, massage should be a part of your self-care routine as well. Try to book a post-natal massage 3 to 4 weeks after delivery. Your wrists, fingers, low back, bra line and shoulders can ache from carrying, feeding and holding your babe. Take the time to soothe those sore muscles for the long haul because your little one is bound to keep growing as you continue to cuddle them. This kind of me-time can also reduce post-partum swelling, encourage better sleep and ease your hormone regulation while your body stabilizes and recovers after delivery.
According to women’s health professionals, massage can help with relieving symptoms of post-partum depression too. “Massage therapy has a positive effect on mood, energy, sleep and the nervous system.,” says Francis-Smith. “Also learn infant massage techniques that you can do at home. It is such a valuable skill that will help boost your confidence and ease the stress and anxieties of becoming a new parent.”