What Gently Stroking a Baby Does to Their Brain

What Gently Stroking a Baby Does to Their Brain

Now it’s scientifically official: softly stroking your baby is good for their mental and physical health.

A study done at the University of Oxford discovered that when you gently stroke your baby, it reduces the activity in their brain in an area associated with processing painful experiences.

And apparently, parents do this naturally at the most effective speed: just over 1 inch per second.

“Parents intuitively stroke their babies at this optimal velocity,” says senior author Rebeccah Slater, professor of pediatric science at the University of Oxford.. “If we can better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of techniques like infant massage, we can improve the advice we give to parents on how to comfort their babies.”

The research team measured newborns’ pain responses to medically necessary blood tests they underwent.

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The babies’ brain activity was monitored using electroencephalography (EEG), which is a technique that measures tiny bursts of electrical activity from the surface of the brain.

Half of the babies had their skin gently stroked with a soft brush right before their blood was taken, and those who received the treatment showed lower pain-related EEG activity.

Researchers agree that touch can increase parental bonding and decrease stress for both the parents and the baby. For babies spending time in the hospital, this can reduce the length of their stay.

“Touch seems to have analgesic potential without the risk of side effects,” said Slater.

So, cuddle them, caress them and share the love. Everyone will benefit.

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