While holding and looking at my baby as a first time Mom, all I could see was goodness and helplessness rolled into this small and fragile frame. I asked myself back then how this tiny human can be so adorable and yet so feeble. She looks like she can conquer the world with her smile and yet appears so powerless at the same time.
Like a scene in the movie, the act abruptly changes… from looking like an angel in one moment, she hollers like crazy the next. Her cries fill the whole house – reaching as far as to our neighbor’s place while we scamper hard to cradle, sway and woo her. Yup, it’s Jack Jack from The Incredibles in the house!
I must admit though that cradling and snuggling my baby did such wonders to soothe and calm her down.
The power of touch could not be undermined. After all, the skin is the largest sensory organ of our body. Whether curling up with a baby, holding hands with our preschooler, hugging our grandma, patting the shoulder of colleague we all look for these nurturing physical contacts. And if we as adults seek out these tactile experiences, what more are infants?
For years we have heard people telling us to limit holding and carrying our babies lest they become overly dependent on us to the point of manipulating us into giving in to their whims…EHHH wrong. Now child development experts tell us that we can’t actually spoil a baby. When it comes to giving our attention and affection for our little bundle of joy -- too much is not really that much. In fact, our nurturing touch is the foundation by which babies can better develop emotionally, physically and intellectually.
I like how one author puts it “Responding to a baby’s cries isn’t a matter of spoiling them – it’s a matter of meeting the child’s needs.” Babies do not cry to get our attention for no reason. They cry because of hunger, colic, wet diapers or when having a feeling of discomfort. Infants like to be held all the time especially before they can walk on their own.
It is specifically important to do the skin-to-skin contact or Kangaroo Care especially for newborn babies and preemies. Picture this: you get invited to a party and everyone’s doing their own thing. You keep looking for someone familiar but all your friends seem to have gone out of town – of all days. You start feeling a little unnerved until you see a familiar face, and with that one friend all your uneasiness suddenly started to dissipate.
Now, imagine your baby coming out of a nine-month gestation inside your tummy and then goes out to an unfamiliar world where the things recognizable to him are the sound of your voice and your heartbeat. It is no wonder that the moment you place the baby on your chest brings an overall sense of security on your little one. Kangaroo Care makes newborn babies calmer, cry less and sleep better.
Benefits of Nurture Touching
According to the Urban Child Institute, infants who experience nurturing physical contacts exhibited an increase in mental development in the first six months of life compared to children who receive limited physical interaction. The Institute further cited that the improved cognitive development has been shown to last until the child reaches the age of 8, stressing the importance of positive interaction.
On the other end of the paradigm, the lack of touch resulted in slow growth in infants. Touch Deprivation has been associated with increased aggression and other behavioral problems.
If you’re thinking that skin-to-skin contact is a one-way street, guess again, both moms and babies benefit from this big time. As an example, mothers who suffered from post-partum depression and who regularly massaged their infants showed a decrease in their stress and depression levels. Further, both mother and child showed an improved immune system.
Practicing the Art of Nurture Touching
The Infant Massage USA suggests these positive tactile interaction
- Cradling/carrying the baby, massage strokes
- Skin to Skin contact (Kangaroo care)
- Holding your children on your lap during bedtime story
- Frequent hugs and snuggling
- Holding your baby while feeding
- Holding hands with your toddler
- A back massage for older kids
Who doesn’t want a good massage? Even babies are huge fans of gentle massages. Just watch for that itsy bitsy grin, that satisfied look as they indulge in one of life’s little pleasures.
instagram | @maur.b
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