Holding your new baby is sometimes a drag, especially when she’s sobbing and/or it’s 2am. Flashy headlines proclaim that "Babies Who Get More Cuddles Seem to Have Their Genetics Changed For Years Afterwards.” This would be a gratifying thought, for a tired parent. But is it even remotely true?
The (small, preliminary) study in question did not find that parent can literally change a child’s genes. That die has been cast. I hope you chose your co-parent wisely!
Epigenetics is complicated
Instead, there is some reason to believe that more holding and touching can change which genes get expressed in your baby (an “epigenetic” change). In other words, potential characteristics can possibly be brought out or suppressed a bit, via touch.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence yet that the epigenetic changes from touching a baby have any measurable impact on outcomes like longevity, happiness, etc. All the touch in the world won’t turn a constitutionally dour baby into little miss sunshine.
Hold them anyways
But babies who are touched more do cry less and grow better (genetics completely aside). Plus, ignoring a crying baby is painful for all involved. That’s all the reason you need.