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.

Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

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