One of the most natural impulses for a mother is to cuddle her baby.
This is for a good reason, as skin-to-skin contact between mother and child leads to the development of higher IQ and seems to be necessary for proper development of the brain and mind.
This is understandable, as it is almost like mom’s love is being transferred from mom to child through touch. A new study shows that the touch also changes babies on a molecular level.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia collaborated with researchers from the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, and they examined the DNA of two groups: babies who had been cuddled and touched, versus those who sadly had not, or at least to a lesser extent.
By looking at the almost 100 children in the study, the scientists were able to find a correlation.
The study published in Development and Psychopathology investigated something called DNA methylation. This is a sort of molecule that is attached to DNA in a certain pattern when you are young, and changes as you get older.
The kids who were cuddled were, in terms of their DNA methylation pattern, older, compared to those who did not have skin-to-skin contact. The younger ones aged slower, which in this case is possibly not a good thing.
“In children, we think slower epigenetic aging might indicate an inability to thrive,” explained UBC Professor Michael Kobor.
Now, what is left to do is see how these DNA methylation patterns may be connected to mood.
“We plan on following up to see whether the ‘biological immaturity’ we saw in these children carries broad implications for their health, especially their psychological development,” said first author Sarah Moore.
This study may have provided the foundational reason that we as humans instinctively cuddle infants.