Published Date: 12/17/19
Have you ever noticed that your newborn can be sleeping comfortably on your chest but as soon as you try to sit down, they wake up crying, insisting that you stand, bounce, or walk around with them? Human nature is amazing and this response is part of the fight or flight response. If a caregiver is standing up and holding a helpless baby, they are ready in case they need to run away from danger. If they are sitting or laying down, it would take more time to get away.
A study was done showing how baby mice prefer to be held by the nape of their necks by their mothers, for the same reason. The mom can get them away from danger quicker. When the mother mouse picks the baby up, they go limp. It’s easier for a mouse to hold her baby when they aren’t wiggling. This is also why babies calm down when they are being held in a standing position, it’s easier for both the parent and baby to escape quickly if needed. The same study showed that infants under 6 months old who were being carried by their mother, had a rapid heart decrease and stopped crying, compared to a mother who was sitting. Parents might still be stressed out at having to constant move with their newborn babe but by understanding that this behavior is part of human evolution, they can see that it’s normal and there is a reason for it.
Babies need to be held. Babies need to be touched. Hugging, holding, snuggling, babywearing, and skin-to-skin are all ways that we can love our babies and help them to feel safe and secure. It can also help to offset any newborn trauma they may have endured. In our modern world, we see ads for products that make it easy to not have to pick up your baby as often as you might without them. There are bouncy seats, swings, pack n’ plays, strollers, walkers, portable bassinets, and even car seats that turn into strollers so that you never have to pick your baby up going from car to shopping and back to car. Heck, there are even swings that turn themselves on when your baby starts to cry so that you don’t have to pick them up. Of course, as parents, we all need relief, and using these occasionally doesn’t do harm.
But humans are a carry species. We have the largest brains of any primate yet our babies rely on us for a long period of time. Human babies are in utero for nine months and once they are out in the world, they enter the fourth trimester. During this time, babies need to be held and they will often cry as soon as they are put down. This can be stressful for the parents but it’s perfectly normal. The idea that babies can self-soothe is a myth.
After being in the comforting and warm womb for nine months (ideally), it’s no wonder that babies crave the comfort of their parents. The world is a big and scary place for a newborn. It is full of new sights, sounds, scents and it takes time to adjust. Being held and snuggled in warm, soft arms, close to the soothing beat and vibration of a heartbeat, feels more like the womb than being set down in a contraption.
So go on and snuggle your baby and don’t let anyone tell you that you will spoil them. You can’t spoil a baby with love.
Paper Pinecone is a thought leader in Early Childhood Education and the best way for parents and providers to connect. Parents search thousands of providers at no cost and providers always list free. Get started today.