The importance of touching and picking baby up for childhood development

The importance of touching and picking baby up for childhood development

Forget that idea that holding your baby on your lap too much spoils them. Make the most of early childhood to get close to your child.

Just as important as staying up to date with their vaccinations and keeping them safe, bringing babies up from birth with lots of affection is crucial for their development.

“Relatively recent scientific proof shows that bio-psychic-emotional development is successful when children receive stimuli (or information) allied with loving contact”, says Anna Chiesa, a nurse with a doctorate from USP, and a master’s degree in public health.

The new approach, widely advocated by specialists from the new generation of pedagogy, psychology and childhood medicine, such as Spanish paediatrician Carlos González, is aligned with other theories that are currently enjoying success, such as parenting with attachment, developed by the British psychologist John Bowlby. From the 1950s this has been in vogue once again, combating some myths that more recent studies indicate could jeopardise instead of helping the child. Some examples are not picking a baby up in order not to spoil it or letting the baby cry so that it will learn that it is necessary to wait.

The baby’s first months are considered to be exterogestational (as if it were the continuation of pregnancy outside the womb). At birth human babies are born more immature than any other mammal. They are still in formation and need a sensation of security in order to develop. Both mother and father as carers need to be at the ready to meet baby’s needs”, says the psychologist Juliana Breschigliari.

Hold them as much as they want

This means meeting both their physiological and their affective needs. This is what Carlos González thinks too.

“Nobody would refuse food to a child who is crying from hunger; nobody would deny shelter to a child crying because of the cold. Would you let a child cry when it does so because it needs affection?”, he questions in his book Bésame Mucho – Como Criar Seus Filhos com Amor.

Care permeated constantly with affection has a lot to do with touching the child, because, as Anna Chiesa says, this is one of the first senses it develops. That is why it is very important to hug the child, to pick it up, to transform its bath time into a moment of affection and tenderness, as opposed to just hygiene.

“People confuse giving affection with not establishing limits. A child is not spoilt by being picked up. It might be spoilt for other reasons, but not from an excess of affection. On the contrary, affection will make the child an emotionally secure adult, with far less chance of becoming a spoilt adult”, the nurse explains.

In addition to being fundamental for childhood development, this proximity reinforces the bond between the baby and its carers, which is very important for the development of happy, self-assured adults. It is no exaggeration to say that the consequence of this affection provided in early childhood will be a better world, made by better people.

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