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Stimulation through Touch (Infancy)

Julia Mitchell-Hoffman, Behaviorist

Have you ever held a newborn baby? It is a feeling that can be overwhelming as you hold in your hands a precious life that is totally dependent on his/her caretakers. This little precious one needs to be held with care, with love and close. New moms are often asked to hold their infants skin to skin immediately after their arrival. It has been found to help the baby to breath better; regulates the baby’s temperature and glucose and indications that the newborn shows much less signs of stress.

Newborns that feel a sense of physical stability normally will search for and latch on to the momma’s breast. Mom may gently guide their baby to the breast and gently stroke the side of the baby’s cheek s they begin to suckle. This gentle touch can strengthen the attachment between both mom and her baby. This precious time can be the reassurance for many new moms’ that they will be able to meet the needs of the child. Daddy should also build his attachment to his little one by using the skin to skin technique.

In the weeks to come holding and cuddling with your infant become even more important to help your infant know that he/she is safe and can trust you to meet their needs. Touch says “I love you” and that “I am right here for you.” This is a basic need that your baby needs to flourish. Many of the activities you will be doing with your baby are opportunities to touch your child (diapering; feeding; singing t your baby; bathing, etc.)

Infant massage can also be introduced to a baby with gentle strokes. You will want to be very aware of these encounters and monitor your baby’s reactions. If they seem to like the touch repeat them. If not, try again at a later time. It is suggested to build massage into the baby’s schedule throughout the day, again following your baby’s lead as when baby is done. These gentle caresses can also be done by dad!

Different textures in your baby’s surrounding will also provide opportunities for touch. As your baby sleeps he/she will feel the softness of the cotton sheets or the blanket grandma made for him/her. When mommy holds her baby she may feel the gentleness of the silk shirt se is wearing compared the more rough feeling of daddy’s flannel shirt. Your baby may feel the scratchiness of daddy’s whiskers one day and the smoothness of his skin after he has shaved. The baby may feel the sunbeams that gently rest on him/her or the gentle breeze coming in from the window.

Touch is an important part of the development between parents and their child. Touch your child with love and with gentle reassurance that are indeed loved.