This study was conducted at the Research Institute of Children’s Hospital of British Columbia by researchers at the University of British Columbia. It was published in the journal Development and Psychopathology and carefully examined the biochemical changes that can occur in a baby at the molecular level when he has a comforting physical contact.
Previous studies have already confirmed many of the benefits of physical ailment on babies. Babies who are born prematurely or end up at the NICU after birth tend to gain weight faster and get out of the NICU earlier when they receive regular skin-to-skin contact.
Other studies have linked an improved ability to learn new words with comforting physical contact.
Researchers in British Columbia followed a group of infants from 5 weeks to 4½ years old. We asked parents to record the sleep habits of crying and feeding . They also needed to know how often they took their children in their arms. At the end of the study, DNA samples were taken from the children with an oral sample.
The researchers studied a particular genetic process known as DNA methylation . This method determines how specific active genes act on the body. Although many genes are also active, there are others that are more or less active depending on certain factors, many of which seem external.
As the study revealed, one of these external factors is the degree of physical contact these children had with their parents or other caregivers. It was determined that the two areas of DNA most affected by an increase in methylation involved metabolism and the immune system.
These changes were more common among children who huddled more in the arms of their parents.
In addition, research found that children who spent more time in distress but had fewer physical contacts had a less developed genetic structure than they should have had at their age. The researchers noted that other recent studies have linked poor health to a measurable gap between chronological age and epigenetic age.
Further research is needed to determine the long-term effects of these changes in DNA and whether or not they impact the child for the rest of his life, or if it is a change temporary. Be that as it may, it is clear that babies who spend more time in the arms have a better immune system and are more advanced in development than those who are less immune.
For parents, this is great news, and even more, a motivation to spend as much time hugging their babies as possible. After all, babies can gain many benefits and feel comforted. This can help them to develop normally and boost their immune system to a genetic level to help them stay healthy.