If you’ve ever read The 5 Love Languages of Children, you know that one of the key ways we show and receive love is via physical touch. The other four are acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time, and gifts. According to the author, Gary Chapman, when children are approximately five to eight years old, they start to determine their love language. Getting them involved by asking a series of questions about the love languages will help you identify which one your child associates with most.
Physical touch is the love language of all babies under age five, and it’s especially true for infants. But what does it mean exactly to communicate love through physical touch to an infant? It means that when you hold them, they feel safe and secure. Still, you might wonder: can you hold a newborn too much? The simple answer is no - absolutely not!
More time spent in your arms means more opportunities to learn your baby’s cues. Plus, you’ll be able to meet their needs quickly, which further promotes feelings of security and care to the infant. Read on to learn what the research shows.
Holding Your Newborn Too Much? The Science Says It’s Impossible
There is also quite a bit of scientific research promoting the benefits of getting skin-to-skin contact when holding your infant. Most mothers are encouraged to do skin-to-skin for the first hour after birth, but the benefits of skin-to-skin time don’t end after the baby’s first hour of life outside the womb - they continue throughout the newborn stage. Benefits include helping your baby maintain and regulate their physiological processes, such as respiration, blood pressure, cortisol levels, and body temperature.
What’s more, further research demonstrates that physical touch, body warmth, and even olfactory receptors in the nose release oxytocin when mother and baby are close together. Oxytocin is the “feel good” hormone in the body that supports feelings of happiness and attachment between the mother-baby dyad. This strengthens the bond and also encourages a stronger connection between the two.
More importantly, there is no magical age when you must stop holding your baby. It is a myth that we will create bad or spoiled babies by holding them too much. In fact, studies show that human beings fall into a category of species that are classified as “carry mammals.” These are mammals, like primates, who hold their infants in their arms for 24 hours a day.
What does that mean for us? Our babies have a biological expectation that they will be held pretty much around the clock. That can be surprising to new mothers who may have been culturally exposed to the idea of creating independence early on in their infants. We are also exposed to numerous marketing ads and messages for baby gear that tell us they will keep our babies entertained while they are out of our arms. All of this messaging is confusing, especially for new parents whose baby cries and only seems to “want to be held.” The reality is, a baby’s need to be held is quite normal, and the maternal and paternal instinct to respond by carrying them should be supported.
So - can you hold a newborn too much? No. Holding your baby as long and as often as you want is beneficial and backed by science. However, it might not be the easiest on your body, especially as you recover from labor and as your baby grows. It can be helpful to utilize tools to support you, like babywearing and reaching out to other supportive adults.
Curious about the other benefits of babywearing? Read more here!