It's no secret that once you have your little baby in your arms, it can be hard to put them down. What can be more surprising than how much you want to hold your baby after they're born, is how much they actually want to be held. But why does your baby want to be picked up? You might be surprised when your baby starts crying the second you put them down, but they stop as soon as you pick them back up. As it turns out, there's a good reason why.
As noted by Parenting, all infants love to be held. In fact, when you hold your child, you stimulate pressure receptors that help his body relax. Miami, Florida pediatrician Dr. Gary Kramer, M.D., F.A.A.P. (Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics), confirms this notion in an interview with Romper.
The response of caregivers to pick up a crying infant is instinctual, he says, but "research has proven that the effect of a caretaker holding a baby causes the infant's heart rate to slow, and thereby, automatically relaxes the baby. This effect also reduces the stress and anxiety level of the caretaker which, in turn, reduces further escalation of the situation."
According to Zero to Three, a non-profit organization working to promote child development knowledge and improve the lives of infants nationwide, the fact that infants always want to be held makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint — staying close to your source of food and protection is actually pretty savvy.
Dr. Dorota A. Szczepaniak, M.D., pediatrician at Indiana University's Riley Children's Health, agrees. "In general," she says in an interview with Romper, "babies want to be picked up because they crave physical contact and emotional connection with parents. All humans, and most animals, when young, crave that contact."
But there's also some benefits, too. "Newborn babies greatly benefit from close physical contact with both parents, and scientific studies prove that, whether they are sick or well, infants benefit from being held," Szczepaniak says. Skin-to-skin care, particularly, she continues, provides warmth to baby’s skin, but also has been shown to increase quality of deep sleep and quiet alertness, both of which are very important to baby's development.
Allison Lowe-Fotos, Master of Social Work, Licensed Clincial Social Worker, is a policy specialist at The Ounce of Prevention Fund, an organization whose goal is for all infants to have quality early childhood experiences. She tells Romper that because babies are not verbal, they communicate their needs and wants through their behavior. "Babies view the world and learn through the context of their relationships with the caring adults in their lives," Lowe-Fotos says, "so when they can’t self-regulate, they look to the trusted people in their lives for comfort, security, and assistance."
Of course, it's nearly impossible to hold your baby all the time, especially when you're an overtired new parent in desperate need of a shower, or a nap (or more than likely, both).
As mentioned by Parenting, there's a few things you can try if your baby needs to be held, but you need your hands free for a moment (or hour). Babywearing can be a huge help, since your baby will still be cuddled, but your hands will be free to do something thrilling, like eat a bowl of cereal, or hang in peace at your side. Putting your little one in a cradle or swing could also work, though whether or not your baby will actually like it is questionable until you try it.
If that doesn't work, and you don't have anyone around to pass the babe off to, try not to feel guilty about putting them down in a safe space. Reminding them that you always come back, and leaving them to be for a little while you finish what you need to do will help them begin to learn how to have some time away from you.
Your baby may always want to be picked up, but, for the sake of your own sanity, it's really OK to put them down, too.