Throughout history, parents have strived to raise healthy and well adapted children, but the demands of modern society may be chipping away at the most important bond of all—the one between mother and child.
Just ask any mother. No matter what the economic situation or the society, as soon as she had her first baby, the world stopped. All that mattered was her child.
The special relationship between mother and child begins before the baby is even born. It only strengthens and intensifies as the child grows.
Commonly referred to in many countries as skinship, this bond is encouraged through physical touch. It can help to provide an essential building block toward having other healthy relationships throughout the child’s lifetime.
For women who are mothers, the advice of doctors resonates for years. Physical contact with the baby is essential.
It can be developed when bottle feeding, but for optimal bonding, health care providers recommend breastfeeding. The point is that babies and mothers need to feel one another.
Some practices encourage mothers to lay their naked babies against their own exposed skin. This allows the child to bond through a sense of smell and take comfort in the touch and warmth of the mother.
Many doctors feel that uniting the mother and child as soon as possible after birth actually helps the babies to feel safe and connected in their new surroundings.
It is also said that babies and small children that get to experience the benefits of skinship are kinder, more sensitive people who aren’t as demanding or self centered throughout life.
Yet some experts fear that current child-rearing trends may be eroding this basic bond. Working mothers do not spend as much time with their infants as stay-at-home moms of the past did. Daily demands can make closeness difficult. Quite often, the only time bonding takes place is during feeding times.
At the same time, some young mothers have been advised to avoid holding their new babies too much, otherwise it will spoil the child. Crying infants need to learn to self-soothe, the reasoning goes.
In many parts of the United States, childcare and day care workers are discouraged from holding and comforting babies. A new generation may be growing up quite literally “out of touch” with others.
But research is clear about this. The physical bonding at infancy has been shown to help children develop confidence as toddlers. It not only soothes fussy babies, but also has long-term effects, lowering rates of psychopathology and even helping kids later to excel in academic areas such as math.
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