Without a doubt, parenting is hard, pretty hard, especially for new mums and dads. As much as we don't like to admit it, the truth is glaring, and we can't shy away from it.
It's a wonder how we can love our children so much and don't cherish every minute we spend with them. None of us enjoys the frequent diaper changes or the late night watch we often have to keep just to cuddle a crying baby.
However, even with its sucky parts, there is nothing more wonderful and fulfilling than parenting. And there's no greater joy in a woman's life than having a child to call her own. But as expected, parenting will always be the hard part which is why so much has been said on the proper way to take care of a child.
How do you react when little tot cries and would not be comforted? What about all the midnight watches that doesn't seem to be ending? How do you celebrate their playfulness without sparing the rod? It's damn hard, right? I couldn't agree more.
Thankfully, many of us, especially we old mommas-***winks***-have grown to be pillars amidst the storm. And I can wholehearted tell you that I love my children more than anything else in the world. Unfortunately, it wasn't easy putting up with all their excesses during infancy, but am glad my perseverance paid off.
However, thanks to some new discoveries in science, raising a child has been made a whole lot easier. Over time, science has demonstrated how contact is important to the development of both infants and adults. For example, massage has proven to be one of the best relieve for people who are constantly stressed out from work. And sometimes, touching someone momentarily at work can boost his confidence and performance.
However, it seems children are the ones who benefit most from frequent physical contact. In addition to encouraging bonding, breastfeeding and communication, a recent study has shown that cuddling infants could also impact their genetic makeup especially during the first few weeks of conception. This is based on the results of a recent study carried out by a team made up of researchers from the University of British Columbia and BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute.
In carrying out the study, the team observed how contact with babies can induce some epigenetic changes in their DNA. Based on the research, it was discovered that babies who receive less hugs and skin-to-skin care tend to experience more distress even before they turn five. Their behavioral pattern was quite different from kids who were exposed to more touch and care at infancy. Epigenetics is concerned with the hereditary changes that occur as a result of the activation and deactivation of genes by chemical signals without any change in DNA sequence.
In carrying out the study, the team from UBC asked the parents of 94 babies to keep diaries which contained details of their physical contact (cuddling and touch) as well as their children's behavior (like crying, eating and sleeping) starting from the fifth week after birth. They were also required to log in the duration of cuddling that followed these behaviors. At approximately four-and-a-half years, DNA swabs were taken from inside the cheeks of the kids and the samples were analyzed for a biochemical modification known as DNA methylation - based on the differences in DNA resulting from the extent of physical contact.
Using DNA methylation, the researchers discovered some key differences at five specific DNA sites between the kids that received more cuddling (high-contact) and those that received little (low-contact). Interestingly, it was also voiced that among the five DNA sites, two play very important roles in metabolism and protective resistance against infections (immunity).
In addition, it was also discovered that the biological aging of the tissue and blood was quite abnormal in kids who had low contact with their parents. These kids were reported to have experienced more distress which wasn't "normal" considering how young they were. In order words, kids who were touched less frequently experienced abnormal cell development which was not peculiar to other kids of their age. Interestingly, the research findings had some correlation to a similar study carried out on rats more than four years ago.
“In children, we think slower epigenetic aging could reflect less favorable developmental progress,” says a member of the team, Michael Kobor.
Although nothing is certain yet, scientists believe that the gaps between biological age and epigenetic age could be responsible for some health problems. Thus, further research would be required to explain the reason for these gaps and how the condition could possibly have any health implication.
"We plan to follow up on whether the 'biological immaturity' we saw in these children carries broad implications for their health, especially their psychological development," says Lead author, Sarah Moore.
"If further research confirms this initial finding, it will underscore the importance of providing physical contact, especially for distressed infants."