Babies Are Good For Mental Health

A healthy baby yawning next to a teddy bear

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength. . .

Psalm 8:2

Modern science has demonstrated how vital touch is for the survival and development of human babies. In the literature, babies deprived of touch experienced stunted growth, contracted a wide variety of illnesses, and were the victims of high infant mortality. These harmful effects have been observed in orphanages where babies did not receive adequate human stimulation. It is quite apparent from the research that human stimulation is as essential as milk and formula to the success of human development. If everyone acted on this simple fact, there would be a market for people whose sole job was to hold the babies of people too busy or too indifferent to do it themselves. This insight comes as a rude awakening to people living in modern societies where babies do not receive adequate attention due to weak communities and overworked parents.

If everyone acted on this simple fact, there would be a market for people whose sole job was to hold the babies of people too busy or too indifferent to do so themselves.

In this article, I want to briefly comment on the flip side of the coin: the benefits that holding a baby can have on the other human being involved in the process. While I have yet to come across a particular scientific study, I believe I have enough personal experience with the issue to contribute something meaningful to the conversation. To give some background, nobody in my immediate or extended family and very few people in my friend group currently have babies. I went a period of several months without interacting with a baby. When I would see a baby in public during this time, I felt the desire to interact with it in a moment of purity that contrasted sharply with the business of my day. I came to the conclusion that I myself was being deprived of human interaction that could have a salutary effect on my own mental health.

Human beings of all ages have an intrinsic need for human touch. For many people raised in a sex-crazed culture, sexual activity is often seen as the primary way of meeting this need. However, a simple interaction with a baby can contribute not only to its mental and physical health but to that of the adult giving the baby attention.

What I’m not suggesting is you go make a baby simply for the mental health benefits. As parents out there can attest, caring for a baby around the clock can be a huge source of stress, especially when family and life circumstances are not ideal for raising children. What I am putting out there is the ancient idea that there is a peculiar strength we derive from our interactions with babies and small children. Words like natural beauty, spontaneity, and authenticity come to mind, which do not come easy in the adult world.

Oftentimes, we don’t take time for babies because we lead busy lives and can’t quantify the benefit of spending time with a human being who can’t speak and doesn’t know his left hand from his right hand. The next time you find yourself thinking in these terms remember that a baby’s public cry for attention may actually be an invitation into a mutually beneficial transaction.

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