Love is a language that most people experience in their life; either with a partner, parent, sibling or child, most people know that a way to communicate physical love is often through a hug or a kiss. When it comes to babies, it’s not rocket science to know that they need a lot of attention and TLC. Yes, this can make the best of moms impatient, cranky and drive them crazy from the lack of personal space, but at the end of the day, a baby is a baby. They are delicate, small, and helpless little humans who need constant guidance, love, attention and affection.
All the mommas out there can agree that the moment they laid eyes on their precious little gift, they embraced them with a cuddle and a kiss. It’s the natural response towards a loved one, and it’s safe to say that a baby’s soft, chubby cheeks are tempting to look at from a distance! When a baby reaches the “independent” stage, they become annoyed when they are locked in their parents’ arms and being smothered by kisses because they have no way of escaping. However, as much as this seems to annoy them, it is actually scientifically proven that kissing baby is more important than most think.
3 Key Reasons Why Kissing Baby is Important
1It Boosts Their Immune System
This first one is quite strange and it revolves around nursing mothers: kissing is said to boost a baby’s immune system. This will make sense very shortly. As a mother kisses her baby, she will consume the harmful pathogens (AKA bacteria) that have been sitting on the baby’s skin, ready to make its way into the baby’s mouth.
To cut a long scientific story short, because #mombrain, once the pathogens reach the mom’s tonsils, something “magical” happens and antibodies are created that help fight off the infections that the different strains of bacteria cause. These white-cell fighting machines are then passed through to the baby in breast-milk. Once the baby receives these mini warriors, their immune system is built as they now have the ability to fight against a wide range of illnesses!
2Kissing Your Baby Makes Them Smarter
This second point is probably the most intriguing. Kissing baby on the lips actually increases their ability to recognize another person is physically ‘like them’, and this all depends on the reaction their brains have towards touch. A study took place last year by the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) where they used infant brain imaging to discover how the hand, foot and lips are viewed in the brains of 2-month-old babies.
During this study, the researchers used a hand-held wand to lightly tap each infants’ left foot, left hand and the middle of their upper-lip. The results of this study showed that the strongest reaction that occurred in the brain of the infant was caused when the middle of the upper lip was touched. The response that the infant’s brain had towards the touching of their lip wasn’t too surprising for the researchers as a baby’s lips are used for sucking and also to communicate their language.
Regarding these results, Andrew Meltzoff, a UW psychology professor and co-director of I-LABS, stated, “Lips are important for babies, they use lips for sucking, but lips are also used to articulate speech sounds and to communicate emotions; a pout versus a smile. Young babies are lip experts, and their brains reflect this.”
To support the discovery from UW I-LABS, a study was performed by the Washington University School of Medicine in St.Louis. Brain images portrayed that love and affection shown from a parent to their baby positively enhances brain development.
During this study, the students discovered that the hippocampus (the learning and memory center of the brain) of children who received a lot of love and affection as babies was 10% larger than children who weren’t shown much love and affection as a baby. In Sue Gerhardt’s book, “Why Love Matters”, she explains how there is a connection between the love an infant receives and the kind of people they turn into. Linking towards the study conducted at UW I-LABS, Gerhardt agrees that kissing your baby helps build more neuronal connections in the brain, thus making the baby smarter.
She also explains that expressing love to a baby through physical touch and by responding to a baby’s signals, rather than letting them just “cry it out”, helps their brain to mature without it getting stressed out. Gerhardt states, “There is nothing automatic about it. The kind of brain that each baby develops is the brain that comes out of his or her particular experiences with people.”
3Affectionate Mothers Create Less Anxious Adults
Babies with very affectionate and devoted mothers grow up to be more resilient and less anxious adults. There are a lot of mothers who think that smothering a baby with affection spoils them and causes dependency and behavioral and emotional problems in the future. A study performed that used data from the Providence, Rhode Island Birth Cohort of the National Collaborative Perinatal Project proves that the thought of “spoiling a baby with affection” is totally incorrect.
During this long-term research experiment, nearly 500 people, aged around 34-years-old, were observed with their mothers by a psychologist when they were 8 months old. The job for the psychologist was to rate the mothers’ level of affection towards their babies. The results displayed that 10% of the mothers showed low levels of affection, 85% of them established a standard amount of affection, and almost 6% demonstrated high levels.
About 34 years later, the individuals came back to complete a survey to measure how much they suffered from different types of distress, including anxiety and hostility. The outcome conveyed that high levels of warmth and affection, such as kissing a baby, are associated with less distress in their adult life. Therefore concluding that the amount of maternal affection a baby receives as young as 8 months old has a long lasting impact on their mental health. These results were published by BMJ Journals in the book “Journal of Epidemiology and Community Healthy”.
To all you mommas out there reading this, now you know a few “scientific” reasons why you kissing baby is so important. Your kiss leaves such a strong imprint on your baby’s heart (and brain). So just embrace your precious little angels and kiss them to your heart’s content. As the beloved Winnie the Pooh Bear once said, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our heart.”
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Sources: 3 Significant Ways Your Baby Benefits from Hugs and Kisses, Pucker up, baby! Lips Take Center Stage in Infant’s Brains, Minding the Baby, The Power of Kisses, Mother’s Affection at 8 Months Predicts Emotional Distress in Adulthood, Stress and Addiction: When a Robust Stress Response Indicates Resiliency