Just as important as staying up to date with their vaccinations and keeping them safe, bringing babies up from birth with lots of affection is crucial for their development.
Relatively recent scientific proof shows that bio-psychic-emotional development is successful when children receive stimuli (or information) allied with loving contact”, says Anna Chiesa, a nurse with a doctorate from Sao Paulo University, and a master’s degree in public health.
The new approach, widely advocated by specialists from the new generation of pedagogy, psychology and childhood medicine, such as world-renowned Spanish paediatrician Carlos González, is aligned with other theories that are currently enjoying success, such as parenting with attachment, developed by the British psychologist John Bowlby. From the 1950s this has been in vogue once again, combating some myths that more recent studies indicate could jeopardise instead of helping the child. Some examples are not picking a baby up in order not to spoil it or letting the baby cry so that it will learn that it is necessary to wait.
The baby’s first months are considered to be exterogestational (as if it were the continuation of pregnancy outside the womb). At birth human babies are born more immature than any other mammal. They are still in formation and need a sensation of security in order to develop. Both mother and father as carers need to be at the ready to meet baby’s needs”, says the psychologist Juliana Breschigliari.
Hold them as much as they want
This means meeting both their physiological and their affective needs. This is what Carlos González thinks too. “Nobody would refuse food to a child who is crying from hunger; nobody would deny shelter to a child crying because of the cold. Would you let a child cry when it does so because it needs affection?”, he questions in his book Kiss Me!: How to Raise Your Child with Love.
Care permeated constantly with affection has a lot to do with touching the child, because, as Anna Chiesa says, this is one of the first senses it develops. That is why it is very important to hug the child, to pick them up, to transform their bath time into a moment of affection and tenderness, as opposed to just hygiene.
People confuse giving affection with not establishing limits. A child is not spoilt by being picked up. It might be spoilt for other reasons, but not from an excess of affection. On the contrary, affection will make the child an emotionally secure adult, with far less chance of becoming a spoilt adult”, the nurse explains.
In addition to being fundamental for childhood development, this proximity reinforces the bond between the baby and its carers, which is very important for the development of happy, self-assured adults. It is no exaggeration to say that the consequence of this affection provided in early childhood will be a better world, made by better people.
Talk to baby
Touch is very important, but affection involves more than this, both Juliana and Anna state. Singing and talking to the baby, even when it is very small (“he will retain this emotional register as something good, comforting, even if he won’t remember the song or if he doesn’t speak yet. The opposite is also true: fighting in front of a very young baby will affect him”, says Anna) are part of building the development of the child’s emotional security.
The actress Paula Liberati, mother of Raul, aged a little over 1 year, does all of these things. The daughter of a homoeopathic doctor, she always heard her father say that the most important thing for a child is touching it and showing it affection.
I have always touched him and always talked to him. From the time he was born, I would say: ‘Look, now you are going to sleep, everything is going to be fine. Now I am going to change your nappy: can you see, I’m going to open it. Look at your little leg. I’m going to put some ointment on, you will feel a little cold.’ I always started from the principle that he understands”, she says.
Paula recalls that in the baby’s first week, she put the baby’s crib in her bedroom. Raul started sleeping well very early on, so she decided to move him to his own room.
He did not want to stay in his room, so I gave him a pillow with my smell on it and talked to him. I said: ‘I am going to put you in the crib I have prepared for you. Here you are going to be safe, and Mummy will be right beside you in the room next door. If you need anything, just call me and I’ll be here’. And he stayed there! I have never left my son crying, because I made a deal with him: ‘You can relax and sleep, and if you need me, I’ll be there at your side. Just call me and I’ll come’. So, I always respond to him. I just won’t leave him crying. I don’t agree with that.”