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March 09, 2020 2 min read

The right touch can send a shiver down your spine or make you squirm. But touch is also a critical part of human development. It’s the first sense that babies develop in the womb. Maybe that’s why it plays such a critical role in human development, and throughout our lives.

Woman in bathtub with baby lying on her chest.  

Babies

Touch is the first way that mom (or caregiver) and baby communicate. It’s also a key way to help the health of premature babies through Kangaroo Care (cute, right?). Research has found that lying your baby on your chest for skin-to-skin contact has benefits for both the baby AND the momma. According to the University of Kentucky:

Kangaroo care benefits for baby:

  • Weight gain
  • Less breastfeeding issues
  • Better sleep
  • Calmer and less crying
  • Steadier breathing rate
  • Regular heartbeat
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Less sense of stress and pain
  • Lower risk of infection

Benefits for parents:

  • Less likelihood of postpartum depression
  • Increased breast milk supply
  • Increased comfort holding your baby and confident taking them home (for fathers, too!)
  • An increased sense of closeness

Baby playing with toy while adult hang helps hold up baby's hand.

Into adulthood

Human beings are able to communicate compassion through touch. In a Berkeley University study, participants were separated by a wall. One person would put their arm through a hole in the wall, and the participant on the other side would try to guess the emotion they are conveying, solely through touch. The chances of guessing the right emotion was 8%, but participants guessed compassion correctly 60% of the time. We humans and our feels!

One woman hugging another woman from behind.

The benefits of touch are bountiful, and there are ways to sneak them into your everyday life. Take for example a hug. Hugs:

  • Boost oxytocin, known as the love hormone
  • A 10-second hug per day lowers risk of heart disease and boosts your immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower stress levels

Connecting with people in person also wards off loneliness, which is known to increase blood pressure and depression. Some doctors even say that loneliness rivals obesity and smoking when it comes to damaging your health. Yikes!

Human contact is a remarkable superpower that we all have, and gives so many benefits to each other. All for free. So get out there and hold someone’s hand, or give them a hug! (With permission, of course).


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