Numerous studies have shown that positive touch, especially slow caresses and gentle strokes, helps babies feel safe and comfortable by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone, and stimulating the release of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that calms and promotes bonding. . “It’s important to have a lot of physical contact in the early months,” says Dr. Gartstein.
“Watch what your baby likes and dislikes, and then follow her lead.” Skin-to-skin contact is built into breastfeeding. If you are bottle feeding, you can pull up your shirt and place your baby’s naked body against your stomach while feeding. While bathing, gently massage her scalp, tummy, arms, legs, palms, and feet if she likes it. And whenever your Munchkin coos and reaches out for your touch, don’t hesitate to hug and kiss. Bonus: Those sweet hugs also stimulate the “feel good” neurotransmitters in the parents. When your loved one is tired, their mood is unlikely to be one of rainbows and unicorns.
To increase the chances of your baby being peaceful and cooing during waking hours, let sleep take precedence over everything else. Dr. Hartstein, co-author of a study comparing Dutch children and American children, found that children from the Netherlands were generally happier and easier to calm down. One likely reason for this is that the Dutch place great importance on sleep. “For example, when Dutch parents bring their child home from the hospital, they often send out postcards inviting friends to visit at certain times so as not to disrupt the child’s sleep schedule,” notes Dr. Hartstein.