Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

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Choosing a pre-school

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Newborn reflexes

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Mastitis

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Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...

Colic

Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...

Strap-in-the-Future

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Why touch speaks louder than words

touchLoving touch is an integral component of the communication between parent and child; is vital to your baby’s growth and has a positive impact on their emotional development. The effect of touch on growth was first noticed in premature infants. These tiny babies are often separated from their parents and their isolation in incubators means that they are not cuddled and held as frequently as full term babies. Researchers found that premature babies who were given brief periods of touch therapy gained weight faster, cried less, and showed signs of a relaxed pulse, respiration rate and muscle tension.

In general, touching is required for many everyday activities such as feeding, bathing, rocking and through baby massage. Children instinctively seek out touch when they need it. If babies do not get the physical contact or emotional engagement that they require; trends show an increasing risk of social, emotional and behavioural problems as they grow up. Early skin-to-skin contact deprivation has also been linked to changes in a child’s brain. This includes higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and different levels of oxytocin and vasopressin- the hormones that have been linked to emotion and social bonding.

In contrast, skin-to-skin contact, particularly during the newborn period, helps to calm babies. Infants who receive loving touch tend to cry less and sleep better, which in turn has a positive impact on brain development. After being in the restrictive environment of the womb, being touched or hearing a familiar heartbeat is comforting. Early parent-child interactions involving touch facilitate this new relationship and have a beneficial effect on parents too. Parents who bond with their children through touch frequently report a reduction in stress, lower levels of depression, seem to be more sensitive to their babies cues and find that their babies are more responsive in the first 3 months of life.

Touch developmentally

The feelings we experience from touching and being touched begin long before birth.

By week 20, there is an acceleration in the development of your baby’s senses, including touch, and they are becoming much more aware of their immediate surroundings. As the sensory areas of their brain mature, messages are passed from the brain to the different parts of the body, giving them increasing control over their limbs. Thus the process of exploring their environment through touch begins in the womb, as their hands brush together, form fists or they sometimes hold onto the umbilical cord- these are their first playthings. Your baby’s skin also becomes sensitive to touch. If you touch them through your abdomen you will find that they are aware of the sensation and may respond.

At 28 weeks, your baby has a well-developed sense of touch, which will serve as their primary means of perceiving the world in the first few months of life. Newborns have highly limited vision and underdeveloped hearing; and are therefore reliant on touch to make sense of their environment (e.g. the feel of different textures, such as your clothes or skin, temperature, pain or discomfort, security and love). Touch is also the common form of communication between parent and child, in the absence of language.

Gradually, after a few weeks touch becomes associated with feelings. Your baby will begin to connect the feeling of your nipple or your arms around him/ her and associate them with comfort, warmth, nourishment and love. These first few weeks help set the stage for your future relationship. Dr. William Sears, coined the term “birth bonding” to refer to the intimate skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact that occurs between infant and parent. He pointed out that birth bonding “isn’t like Super Glue; it is the start of a lifelong process”.

Touch & bonding

Touch plays an essential role in the bonding process. Bonding can be defined as the formation of a close emotional relationship between parent and child. This bond provides your baby with the love, comfort and security that they need. Bonding starts from the moment you know you have a baby inside of you and tends to develop gradually as baby grows. Although your baby is born with a deep psychological need to form a close interaction with you, this does not necessarily occur immediately.

During the last few weeks of pregnancy, turn your attention to your baby, as a way of feeling close to them before you hold them in your arms. Lie or sit in a comfortable position, with your hands on your abdomen and think of the baby inside of you - imagine him or her curled up in your uterus and tell them how you’re looking forward to your first meeting. This is a perfect opportunity for dad’s to bond with baby too. Allow your partner to lie with you in the spooning position, and feel your baby as they move their arms and kick their feet. As a parent, you can foster this relationship by spending time cuddling and talking to your baby, so that they really get to know you.

One of the most natural gestures in the world is when a parent reaches out to touch their newborn baby for the first time. This skin-to-skin contact is an important part of the bonding process, is the beginning of a tactile relationship between parent and child, and provides a genetically programmed natural environment for the human infant. This is one of the reasons why doctors and midwives deliver babies onto their mothers’ chests, if possible. Besides being a mutually positive experience, an amazing phenomenon occurs when there is close physical proximity between mother and child, known as “thermal synchrony”. If baby is a little too cold, the mother’s body temperature rises by a degree or two to warm him; and if baby is a little too warm, the opposite is the case.

Until the age of 12, children learn about their world kinesthetically. In other words, they learn through touching, feeling and experiencing the material at hand. An affectionate relationship with a parent, involving hugging, kissing and play, will strength the emotional bond between parent and child. This bonding behaviour teaches the child to form healthy attachment bonds later in life. Biochemically, human contact in the form of nurturing touch, results in the release of oxytocin in the brain. It also sensitizes the child’s opioid system, making the child feel calm and securely loved.

“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

~ Virginia Satir

References

Mackonochie, A. (2010). The Practical Encyclopedia of Pregnancy & Babycare. Hermes House: London.

Sunderland, M (2006). The science of parenting: Practical guidance on sleep, crying, play and building emotional wellbeing for life. Dorling Kindersley: London.

http://www.adoption.com/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/

http://www.liddlekidz.com/

http://www.emmasdiary.co.uk/

http://www.joyofquotes.com/

http://www.healthguidance.org/