THE POWER OF TOUCH
Enhancing Development Of The Child Through The A Loving Touch
A baby needs your touch. A baby’s first experience with the surrounding environment occurs through touch. It develops prenatally as early as 16 weeks. Touch is the essence for the children’s growth of physical abilities, language and cognitive skills and social-emotional competency. Touch has long-term effects too. It is suggested that the power of touch brings positive vibes in the growth and outlook of the child. Always touch a child gently post birth. Through this contact, new born babies are able to learn about their world, bond with their mother / father / grandparents / caregiver and communicate their needs and wants. After all, 80% of a baby’s communication is expressed through body movement. When parents engage in appropriate touch, young children have improved chances to successfully develop socially, emotionally, and intellectually.
Babies who are regularly held and touched gain weight faster, develop stronger immune systems, crawl and walk sooner, sleep more soundly and cry less than babies deprived of close physical contact. Children who are given plenty of physical affection show more task orientated behaviour, less solitary play and less aggression at school. They also achieve higher levels of educational qualifications in later life.
The Importance of Touch
The easiest way to show love is to simply hold hands of a frightened child, give hugs without a reason, sit with your child and read stories, take the child to the park, etc etc.
Everyone has love in their lives and that love is essential for healing and growth. Being present with the child is what a child wants. Spending quality time with your child is the essence of good upbringing.
A non-contingent touch is just as important, or maybe even more important, in parenting. We touch our children when helping them bathe, dress and so many other ways during our busy days. In the same way, hugs, kisses, cuddling, pats on the backs, the of hair throughout the day. Touch is one of the most important languages of love.
The Lack of Touch
The lack of touch during the early years slows growth in infants. Although research emphasizes the great benefits of touch for premature babies, it benefits all children. In fact, infants who experience more physical contact with caregivers and mothers show increased mental development in the first six months of life compared to young children who receive limited physical contact. Infants who receive above-average levels of affection from their mothers are shown to be less likely to be hostile, anxious, or emotionally distressed as adults. These children usually never suffer from depression. Touch deprivation is additionally associated with increased aggression, pointing to the emotional and behavioural impact of contact during early childhood.
In addition to the cognitive benefits, skin-to-skin contact lets children know that they’re safe and protected, building trust between child and parent. Through the physical contact with adults, strong attachments can be created, thus providing a stable foundation for future relationships. Oxytocin, known as the “bonding” hormone, is released during times of close physical contact such as breastfeeding. Parent-child interactions may help foster the neurodevelopment of brain regions producing oxytocin, thus enhancing children’s future socio-emotional development. Mothers’ ability to identify their baby solely through touch immediately following delivery indicates their unique reliance on the tactile sense. Touch can benefit both mothers and infants alike, forming a bonding connection between parent and child. According to researchers, physical contact can also lower cortisol levels for both mothers and children, thereby leading to improved immune system functioning.
But What Kind of Physical Contact is Best?
In today’s world “Physical Touch” is categorised as “Good Touch and Bad Touch”. Therefore lot of parents have objection if the caregiver touches the child too much. If the baby is at a “Day care” the provisions of CCTV should be there.
To stimulate a baby after waking up from a nap or during playtime, stroking a baby’s face, feet, or stomach increases their alertness. Touch serves as a communication tool as it can both stimulate and calm an infant. Although the physical contact between baby and caregiver is key as it builds a strong foundation for future relationships. Touch-based education, various materials and textures for play way method of learning encourages simultaneous development of sensory, language, and vision development.
Perhaps most importantly, researchers conclude that a daily routine in which a parent and infant spend considerable time together provides extraordinary developmental advantages.
Touch is the last sensory system to fade as we grow older. However, the elderly still need touch as much as they did when they were young. Without it, they may feel disconnected, isolated, lonely and unfulfilled. Touch stimulation is vital for communication, for healthy functioning of the brain and hormonal balance of the body and for physical and emotional well-being. It is also an essential part of being loved.
It has been proved by researchers that skin-to-skin contact and massages given to a baby can produce positive benefits for babies with colic and constipation, respiratory and sleep problems. They also stimulate nerves in the brain that aid digestion and are particularly beneficial for babies with feeding difficulties and for infants with health problems.
Researchers found out in a study and compared standard incubator care to skin-to-skin contact in which the mother’s body heat is used to keep the baby warm. They found that at 10 years of age, children who received maternal contact as infants, showed more organised sleep, better neuroendocrine response to stress, more mature functioning of the autonomic nervous system, and better cognitive control.
Thus this was a brief discussion of touch. However, timing is crucial. Warm and responsive care in the first year has a long lasting effect on how children will learn and develop and how they will cope with stress and how they regulate their own emotions and behaviour in the future. Hope this blog was helpful.