We hear about the positive effects that touch can have on babies and children all the time, but many of us do not know how or why this is true. Specifically, premature babies greatly benefit from their mothers’ touch, but full term babies as well as older children need to be touched in a nurturing, positive way.
Kangaroo Care Makes Bouncing Babies
Kangaroo Care is probably the most heard of practice, which clearly shows the positive effects of touch. In fact, in Bogota, Columbia (where the practice was first implemented) the mortality rate fell from 70% to 30%. Kangaroo Care is very simple. The premature baby is laid upright on the mother’s bare chest. Mother and baby lay chest to chest, with the baby resting between the mother’s breasts. The baby’s head is turned so that his ear is resting above the mother’s heart, where he can hear the soothing, familiar sounds of mommy.
Studies have shown that Kangaroo Care has many benefits, one of which is prolonged sleep in babies with colic, which has been linked with babies struggling to move from one sleep stage to another. Kangaroo care has been found to help babies learn to transition from one sleep phase to the next on their own. Additionally, kangaroo Care has been shown to help babies with respiratory problems, body temperature, and weight-gain issues.
Touch can benefit all babies, not just premature or sick ones.
Soothing touch and gentle massage have a positive effect on infant weight gain and overall health. Babies who are held, cuddled, and touched often, gain weight faster and meet developmental milestones easier. These babies also sleep better in general, and are more relaxed during wakeful times. Touching your baby will also help to develop a strong bond between the two of you, resulting in a more secure and trusting child.
Touch is just as important to older children. Touch is a clear sign of affection that is good for children to experience often. When you hug your child, the pressure stimulates receptors under his skin, which sends a message to the vagus nerve in his brain. The vagus nerve in turn, slows his heart rate, putting him in a relaxed state. The hug also stimulates digestion and releases serotonin, which relieves pain.
There are other ways besides massage and hugs to incorporate touch in your relationship with older children: Holding hands is one great option, as well as a simple high five or pat on the back.
No matter what your child’s age, he can benefit from your touch.
Touch in general, when coming from a parent, has a calming, relaxing effect on a child. Touch makes children feel safe, secure, and loved. Even if you struggle to touch in any other way, hugs from mom and dad always make children feel loved, which is a good thing.