Back in 13th century, the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II did a study in which babies were raised without human interaction in an attempt to see whether natural language would surface as the infants grow.
But, according to clinical psychologist Nadene van der Linden, “[nobody] ever found out what language the babies spoke… because they died. They failed to thrive due to lack of touch and physical expressions of love.”
The Age-Old Cuddle Debate
“Do you think cuddling your baby too much is bad for them?” is a question that you have been probably asked at least once. Science says that cuddling your baby too much isn’t bad for them, but quite the opposite. From positively affecting baby`s development to boosting immunity, cuddling is definitely a good idea.
How Cuddling Babies Can Deeply Affect Their Biology Later in Life
In November 2017, a study published in the journal Development and Psychopathology discovered that the amount of hugging a baby receives can change their DNA in 5 areas.
Researchers from BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the University of British Columbia asked parents of newborn babies to keep a diary their baby`s behavior and touching and cuddling habits.
Were There Any Actual Benefits of Touching and Cuddling?
When the researchers analyzed babies` DNA samples they noticed visible differences at the molecular level between low-contact and high-contact children. As a matter of fact, they noticed 5 differences between the 2 groups:
“[Children] who had been more distressed as infants and had received less physical contact had a molecular profile in their cells that was underdeveloped for their age – pointing to the possibility that they were lagging biologically.”
Interestingly, 2 of the 5 DNA differences were linked to their metabolism and immune systems.
“In children, we think slower epigenetic aging could reflect less favorable developmental progress,” said Michael Kobor, a Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics.
Otherwise stated, babies who received less physical contact are less likely to thrive.
“We plan to follow up on whether the ‘biological immaturity’ we saw in these children carries broad implications for their health, especially their psychological development,” says the study’s lead author, Sarah Moore. “If further research confirms this initial finding, it will underscore the importance of providing physical contact, especially for distressed infants.”
Even though this is the first study of its kind using babies, it is quite encouraging to learn that cuddling can have such tremendous effects as deep down as children’s DNA.
Other Studies Proving the Importance of Touch for Infant Development
Back in the 1950s, Harry Harlow, an American psychologist, used rhesus monkeys for the same purpose. He separated the monkeys from their mothers and gave them the freedom to choose between two monkeys from which to feed, the first one left with bare wire and the other covered in soft cloth.
Naturally, the monkeys spent more time with the latter! When the researcher took that away and left them with the uncovered wire monkey, they showed a few behavioral abnormalities, which suggests the benefits of touch for infants.