You couldn’t resist touching your baby if you tried! After all, she’s warm and deliciously cuddly and her newborn skin is softer than the silkiest scarf.

But did you know you also need to touch your baby? The skin-to-skin contact between newborn and Mom is not only good for her, its goof for you—and it has lasting effects that carry your baby way beyond childhood. Here’s how:

  • Touching baby means healing for Mom: In the minutes, hours, and days after birth, having skin-to-skin contact with your baby likely causes mothers to release oxytocin—which helps reduce bleeding from birth.
  • Mom is a natural warmer: Postpartum, the skin around your chest area is a degree or two warmer than the rest of your body, creating a natural warming basket for baby. Plus, your body temperature will rise in response to baby’s body temperate, so if baby is cold your body temp goes up to better warm her!
  • Better for baby: Research indicates that babies who have more contact with a parent are more relaxed and tend to sleep better. This facilitates brain development as well. Plus, a baby that is more relaxed and sleeping well gives the parents more peace of mind to rest up from the birth, heal, and regain energy.

Research performed on children who grew up deprived of touch—such as children in orphanages or neglectful home situations, finds that they have elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This is true even if those same children have since been placed in loving, attentive homes. The research concludes that the touch and attention given to a newborn are irreplaceable later in life and have far-reaching effects.

No one really needed to tell you to touch your baby—you do so instinctively, because you’re a parent and because your baby is delightful to hold. Now you know that it means to world to her development as well!