Babies who are cuddled often demonstrate greater growth, physiologic stability and have shorter hospital stays than babies who have not been cuddled.
New studies are published every now and then proving the importance of cuddling babies. Some are studying the effects of cuddling on the brain, psychology and reaction to stress while others are explore the impact of cuddling on genes and their expression. Some studies are now addressing the long-term effects of cuddling during infancy on adolescence.
Benefits of skin-to-skin contact
Most maternities are now favoring skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her child. When it comes to premature babies, hospitals tend to favor cuddling for as long as the baby can stay outside of the incubator. The heat of a human body, as well as the heart beat sound of the adult calms the child and reduces stress.
In order to quantify and study that effect, studies where conducted on premature babies with heel stick in both situations: during skin-to-skin contact and while in the incubator. The research measured heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, crying time and behavioral state. As a result, the researchers found that the heart rate and crying response to pain were significantly reduced when coupled with skin to skin contact or cuddling.
Skin to skin contact or cuddling is now called the Kangaroo Care Method (KC). A research paper found that the effects of KC have been measured in children up to 10 years old. Children with KC show less stress response and improved Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia. A study out of the University of British Columbia shows that cuddles affect babies at an even deeper level than we thought. The study published in the Journal of Development and Psychopathology considers that cuddles and hugs we give to babies are changing their genes.
At ASSAMEH Birth and Beyond we are implementing these methods and have often realized that babies, when cuddled, heal faster and gain weight steadily until discharged from the hospital.
The Cuddles volunteers’ program
Caroline Bacha, mother of four children and an active committee member of ASSAMEH Birth and Beyond often goes to the hospital just to cuddle babies in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Her first-time cuddling a baby, she felt an overwhelming and deep inner feeling no words could describe. Since then, she started organizing volunteer cuddling sessions at the pediatric unit for women who care to give a few moments of their time in order to help newborns feel the comfort of being cuddled.
At the Quarantina Pediatric facilities, most of the premature babies come from low income families living far from Beirut with no possibility of commuting regularly. This often leads to children staying for days without being held in the hands of a family member. Caroline and her group of volunteer women are providing the necessary love and care to these children and are helping them recover to ensure a faster discharge. Today, Caroline’s daughter and friends are visiting the pediatric ward regularly to cuddle the babies; Quoting Caroline: “What a wonderful feeling I felt when I saw the tears in my daughter’s eyes when she had the first premature baby in her hands.”
Under-privileged newborns should never be denied the adequate level of medical and emotional care they deserve.
Join our volunteer cuddling group and help restore hope!