Can You Hold a Baby Too Much? Here’s the Scientific Answer

When I was a young mom with a newborn, I was worried about whether holding him too much would spoil my baby boy. Can you hold a baby too much? I wondered in my sleepy new mom haze. I HAD read and heard the opinions of those who said holding a baby when they slept would make it so they would ONLY ever sleep when held and that you HAD to put them down to sleep or you’d basically ruin your entire sleep life and theirs for years to come.

But that just didn’t feel right to me. I wanted to hold my baby. So I did. When he was just a few days old, one of my mom’s best friends came to visit and see my sweet son. She held him as he slept. “Can you hold a baby too much?” I asked her. “What do you think? I want to hold him, but I’m afraid he will learn to only sleep if he’s held.”

She looked me right in the eyes and said, “Hold him as much as you’d like. You can’t spoil a newborn. A newborn’s needs are made to be met.” Her words hit me right in the heart. YES, they were what I wanted to hear, but YES, they also rang very, very true.

Backed by Science

Happily, I can now say that ladies and gentleman, SCIENCE AGREES with my mom’s friend – and with my mother’s intuition. Turns out, holding that sweet baby is in NO way bad for him or her, and as that wise woman said, a newborn’s needs are made to be met — and those needs include LOTS of loving touch.

Can you hold a baby too much?

No. No, you cannot hold a baby too much. A recent study conducted at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, centered on 125 premature and full-term infants and the how important TOUCH was to their brain development. And the study’s results show that touch is even more important than PREVIOUSLY assumed. So please, HOLD THAT BABY!

One thing to note: the research says special care needs to be especially taken to see that premature babies receive this gentle touch as soon as they are able; often the illnesses they fight and the wires and tubes that must be attached to babies in the NICU make this important gentle touch more rare than it should be. The researchers found that these teeny tiny preemies are less likely to respond to gentle touch than their full-term peers, especially if they’ve been through painful medical procedures. But there’s good news on that front, too. The researchers also found that the MORE these sweet preemies were touched and held, the MORE they began to respond…proving it’s not too late for gentle touch to make a difference even if it gets started later than desired.

The study’s lead researcher Dr. Nathalie Maitre told Science Daily, “Making sure that preterm babies receive positive, supportive touch such as skin-to-skin care by parents is essential to help their brains respond to gentle touch in ways similar to those of babies who experienced an entire pregnancy inside their mother’s womb.”

Dr. Maitre advocated for hospitals to strongly encourage and help facilitate skin-to-skin contact between  newborns and parents and said that in a case where the parent could not provide this, it would be wise and  beneficial for hospitals to “consider occupational and physical therapists to provide a carefully planned touch experience, [which is] sometimes missing from a hospital setting.”

So, mamas and daddies, the bottom line is: you can’t spoil that baby by holding him or her too much. So get on with your parental instincts and cuddle the daylights out of your little sweeties! Their beautiful baby brains will be ALL the better for it, and will the parent-child bond. And hey, if brother and sister are game, they can get skin to skin with your baby, too and get the sibling bonding started on a brain development level!

Cannot Spoil a Newborn

I’m super glad, even fourteen years later, to know that my mother’s intuition about holding my baby was right on the money, and that you literally CANNOT spoil a newborn. But, man, I gotta say, it does feel good to know that there’s also a whole lot of science to declare it a fact, now, too!

Can you hold a baby too much? NOPE. Enjoy those newborn snuggles — they’re feeding your newborn baby’s brain!

Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.

Related Posts


Recent Stories