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Beneficial Touch for Infants

Many studies have shown that loving skin-to-skin contact with infants can have beneficial effects on the infants’ biology and psychology.  For example, in one study, pre-term newborns who were given three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy daily for 5 to 10 days gained 47% more weight than pre-term newborns who received only the normal Western medical treatment.  What’s more, the benefits are not just short-term.  Studies have shown that loving skin-to-skin contact with infants can foster emotional balance and physical health that lasts into adulthood; adults who were lovingly touched often as infants tend to be calmer, more resilient to stress, and have a healthier immune system.  With all these benefits of loving skin-to-skin contact, how can parents incorporate this contact into their daily interactions with their infants?

  • Kangaroo care (holding infant skin-to-skin with loving adult, usually a parent, often in a marsupial manner, hence the name)
  • Infant massage
  • Breastfeeding
  • Holding (and perhaps rocking) sleeping infant
  • Touching while speaking to infant (e.g., caressing infant’s head or holding infant’s hand)
  • Touching while dressing infant (e.g., stroking infant’s arms and legs or kissing infant’s exposed abdomen)
  • Employing nursery rhymes and fables that facilitate touch (e.g., “This Little Piggy”)
  • Employing children’s songs that facilitate touch (e.g., “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”)
  • Motor skills development activities (e.g., holding infant upright and encouraging infant to stand)

These are but a few of the myriad opportunities that parents have to incorporate beneficial touch into their interactions with their infants.  Truly, these opportunities are omnipresent.  In each daily activity, such as washing, dressing, feeding, and playing, there are opportunities to incorporate the beneficial touches referenced above.

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