Infants exposed to nurturing touch are more likely to develop into stress-resilient adults even if they were born with risk factors for stress-related problems! The infants who benefit from affection the most are infants who have "difficult" temperaments. Physical contact has stress-busting chemicals that lower cortisol levels and have a calming effect in infants.
Breastfeeding and co-sleeping, defined as an infant sleeping in the same room or bed as the parents, during the first 6 months of life impacts infant cortisol regulation over time.
A study from the Developmental Psychology, Behavioural Science Institute in the Netherlands found that even after controlling for maternal sensitivity, infant attachment status, feeding, and sleeping arrangements at 12 months of age the more weeks an infant spent co-sleeping and breastfeeding predicted lower infant cortisol reactivity to the strange situation test. In the early months of your baby’s life, proximity matters!
Listen to your baby
Unwanted touch or overstimulation can be just as stressful to an infant. Get to know what kind of touch your child likes and adjust your approach based on your infants' cues. Studies have found that physical contact during a bath, talking to your baby while touching them, and singing regulate cortisol levels after a stressful event.
If you are finding it difficult to connect with your infant or are experiencing signs of depression, anxiety, or overwhelm, please reach out to someone you trust and ask for help.