While it may be hard to believe, children experience stress just like we do as adults. We, as adults, have had plenty of time to learn how to manage stress, babies have not. While some people argue that a glass of wine a day is enough to keep away stress or working out regularly is the best way to remain stress free, babies don’t have the ability to do these things! So, what is the key to a stress-free childhood? Is it a glass of warm milk? A mommy and me gymnastics class? It’s none of these things. One thing is especially important to having a stress-free and relaxing childhood: touch! That’s right, one simple touch reduces stress in everyone, but especially children.
If you don’t believe me, just ask the doctor! Doctors believe that children who are calmed with touch learn what the emotional regulation process is like and therefore are able to calm themselves better later on in life. Not only does a touch calm a child in the moment, but it reduces stress far into adulthood. Touch helps children manage stress when faced with anxieties. So, picking up your baby when they start to cry gives them a change to learn how to calm themselves down in the future. Additionally, touch helps prevent pain in the baby. A study performed in 2000 found that “full-term babies who were held close by their mothers during a heel lance or stick — a simple, minimally-invasive procedure used to gather blood samples — cried and grimaced less than babies who were swaddled in a crib during the procedure, and their heart rates were also more relaxed.”1 Babies benefit from touch from the moment they are born and provide caregivers and parents with similar benefits as well. Holding a baby reduces maternal stress and builds a relationship between the baby and the holder.
Every moment of touch gives a child an opportunity to mature, learn, and cope better. Meaningful touch is necessary for survival and a healthy life as they grow!
Pearson, Catherine. “The Incredible Benefits Of Simply Holding Your Baby Close.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 23 Oct. 2015, www.huffpost.com/entry/the-incredible-benefits-of-simply-holding-your-baby-close_n_5626700fe4b08589ef491176.
Babies are some of the most powerful, powerless, beings on our planet. The small giggle, sigh, or whimper of a baby is enough to get even the largest, hardhearted person to make silly faces and noises. Babies catch the attention of many people as soon as they enter the room. Why? Because we, as humans, are created to interact with babies. They have more of an effect on us than we are capable of knowing.
I don’t know if its the same for everyone, but when a baby is in the room I just can’t take my eyes off of them. When a baby catches the eye of someone its almost impossible to look away. Those big eyes hold yours until they look away. Making eye contact with babies is more than just a cute moment with a passing stranger, though. Eye contact has a huge impact on the relationship between parent and baby. Recent studies have shown that eye contact syncs the brain waves of the two people. The study found that “during live (bidirectional) social interactions (experiment 2), there were significant and bidirectional patterns of influence between adult and infant.”1 When adults and babies make eye contact, the brains waves of both are synced. However, its not the brain of the adult changing the brain of the baby, as most would assume, both brains are affected. The adult’s brain does not control the baby’s, nor does the baby’s control the adult’s. Instead, they meet in the middle and change to complement each other. Other studies have shown that “shared patterns of brain activity may actually pave the way for better communication between baby and adult.”2 Eye contact syncs baby and adult, making it easier for them to understand each other; something that is important in any relationship.
While eye contact is easily held without touch in adulthood, it is a different story with infants. When babies are born, they cannot focus their eyes on anything more than 8-10 inches away, the average distance from chest to face on an adult. Babies do what is called gazing. It is often most noticeable at feeding time, when the baby can only see the mothers face. It is the exact distance that it needs to be away so that the baby is able to focus on the eyes of their mother during breastfeeding. It is recommended that a mother breastfeed her baby within the first hour of birth if it is possible. This small moment of touch between mother and baby begins the relationship building process. As a baby grows their eyesight gets better, allowing them to see father away. The more they can see, the more they make eye contact with the important people in their lives.
The connection between holder and baby during eye contact draws our eyes to the love of our divine creator. God created babies knowing their little eyes would only be able to see so far and created mothers with this in mind. The distance a baby can see being the distance from a mothers chest to her eyes is not a mere coincidence! The touch needed to build relationships, is also needed to make eye contact sync brain waves.
The first instance of touch in Jesus ministry is done in accordance with the law. As an infant, he is brought to the temple to complete the purification process of the time. He is handed to Simeon, a righteous and devout man, to fulfill the prophecy spoken over Simeon’s life. Not only did Jesus humble himself from God to a body that couldn’t even control its bowels, but he also submitted himself to the law, and allowed a devout old man to hold him. Simeon held Jesus and presumably looked into his eyes, which allowed their brain waves to sync. Simeon knew that he was looking into the eyes of his savior. The first documented touch in the life of Jesus is the last documented touch in the life of an old man; a meaningful moment between savior and saved.
Leong, Victoria, et al. “Speaker Gaze Increases Information Coupling between Infant and Adult Brains.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 114, no. 50, 2 Nov. 2017, pp. 13290–13295., doi:10.1073/pnas.1702493114.
Sanders, Laura. “Is This Why We Love Gazing into a Baby’s Eyes?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 10 Dec. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/is-this-why-we-love-gazing-into-a-babys-eyes/2017/12/08/716c653a-daaf-11e7-a841-2066faf731ef_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.ba86a4646b4f.
This is a student-driven psychology project. The information provided is for general information purposes only. The information mentioned is not intended to be used as professional or medical advice. The information is not a substitute, nor does it replace, professional medical and psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a qualified professional should you need specific advice