27 Feb The Importance of Touch and Nurturing Newborns
The human touch is an exceptionally unique treatment. For babies, contact is part of their first experience in the human world. During infancy, touch plays a critical role in the development of physical abilities, cognitive skills and social competency. Through contact, a newborn can communicate with a caregiver.
The Strength of Touch in Newborns
The lack of touch during the early stages of development in a child slow down growth. Research shows that infants who experience more physical contact have increased mental development for the first six months of growth than those who suffer limited touch. Research further indicates that the effects of touch are long term. Infants with higher levels of positive physical contact have improved cognitive development up to eight years later.
Touch delay, on the other hand, has adverse effects. Children who experienced low touch as infants have slower cognitive development in later years. They also tend to be more hostile, aggressive, and emotionally distressed as adults. Therefore, touch at infancy affects the emotional and behavioral tendencies in children.
Forming Secure Attachments
Skin-to-skin contact between parents and their children is encouraged because it builds trust between them. Trust is vital because it creates a strong foundation for a good parent-child relationship in later years. During physical touch, the body produces oxytocin, a hormone that plays a critical role in social bonding.
The touch between a mother and infant, for instance, is beneficial to both parties. Physical contact between mother and child can lower cortisol levels, which boost immunity. The mother is also less likely to feel depressed after contact with her child.
In both children and adults, the physiological effects of touch are:
- A boosted immune system
- Lower heart rate
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Stronger social bonds
- Reduced blood pressure
How to Incorporate Touch for Babies
There are several ways for caregivers to include touch in their daily lives. These include:
- On-demand breastfeeding: Nursing a baby is one of the best ways to give physical touch to an infant.
- Babywearing: Infant wear, such as a soothe shirt or pouch shirt, is an excellent way to incorporate touch. For older babies, a baby wrap or baby carriers are ideal.
- Infant massage: The benefits of massaging your baby include increased physical touch, increased bonding, better sleep and overall health improvement.
However, this does not mean that touching should stop after infancy. Older children also need physical touch. Some of the ways to increase physical contact with older kids include:
- Normalizing hugs either before school after school and before bed. It would help if you also hugged whenever it seems appropriate to give a hug.
- Cuddling when watching TV as a family.
- Giving back rubs before sleep.
- Normalizing occasional touch such as back pats and fist bumps.
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