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Skin to Skin Contact Important for Preemies

Woman holding baby

One of the most primal elements for us as humans is touch. It that key sensation that is most often one of our first and most prevalent. We’re held when we’re infants. Guardians go on to hold our hands when we can walk. Gentle hands of reassurance help us cope with personal troubles in our volatile years. This pattern goes on and on without us ever really thinking about the fact that it is so important to our psyche and yet when we cannot touch others we begin to notice it rather quickly. We want to hug our friends or find someone to cuddle with for a little while that can help us feel connected again. Without touch, we become adrift from the world as we know it and don’t know what to do with ourselves. There are very few exceptions to this rule and the vital nature of touch is particularly important for one group: preemies. It may very well be vital to ensuring a healthy and thriving life later on despite initial circumstances.

Care Is Never Too Early
Premature births can end up happening for any number of reasons. It is important not to view it is a personal failing or as a sign that the infant is going to necessarily have a worse life because of it. All it means is that there are a few special challenges to be aware of for a little while. Generally, doctors provide a good overview of any health challenges affecting a particular infant and an overview of how to work in that care into day-to-day life if the infant is otherwise fine to leave the hospital. Otherwise, the hospital staff will help provide most care until such a time as the infant is strong enough to go home. Skin to skin contact will be emphasized as soon as possible though. It provides a primal link between parent and child that is hard to get anywhere else. Scent, body temperature, and the feeling of skin all play a role in initial impressions of care that start to form the basis of the long-term relationship with one’s child. Touch never stops being important.

Present Benefits
It can be difficult to help keep preemies suitably warm for a while after they’re born. The lack of overall weight and development means that their bodies just aren’t as resilient as full-term infants. Most guides encourage using appropriate clothing to help mitigate this, but the right kind of touch can go a long way towards helping. Gently holding such a child to one’s chest and holding them there allows them to absorb body heat. Some studies have shown that a mother’s body temperature can vary in response to her child’s to improve their health. As a result, times for bonding touch like this actually help improve body temperature regulation for preemies and other infants. Touch is naturally soothing on top of all of this. It appears to help keep an infant calm and overall ensures breathing and heart rate remain comparatively regular. This is important for long-term development.

Comfort for the Future
All this touch isn’t just about the current era though. It is about helping to ensure an infant’s health and well-being continue forward throughout their lives. Continual touch and holding sessions with preemies and other infants encourages more feeding overall. This in turn leads to healthy weight gain that helps speed development along and remove them from risky areas of development sooner. Additionally, the extra feeding and simply contact appear to further help boost overall well-being by encouraging a better immune response long term. Perhaps the most vital element to take away from all of this is that touch is also key to healthy brain development. Too little touch and holding leads to stress on the developing brain that can lead to difficulties later in life. Touch is, quite simply, one of the most important things you can give a child at any age, but especially preemies who will already be having a difficult time.

Without touch, we miss out on something deeply tied to what it means to be human. Humans are a social species from the day they are born onwards and need to have a connection to others or they will lose something. It is especially important to help support this connection in the earliest times of a child’s life. Making the effort will help them be happy, healthier, and become whoever they will become in the future.

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