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The Glorious Touch of a Baby

by Shirley King

Can you think of anything as glorious as holding or touching a baby? The sweetness, the purity, the absolute beauty of a baby is indeed very alluring, very captivating, to almost all of us. There is something about a baby that charms us through and through, and we just can't resist a touch.

In nature, animals begin licking and grooming their newborns immediately after giving birth. This licking serves to stimulate the newborn's gastrointestinal, respiratory, genitourinary, and climinative systems to be begin functioning. In his book Touching, Ashley Montagu says that this licking"...appears to be an indispensable necessity for the healthy behavioral development of the young.

Human mothers don't lick, but instead have some eighteen hours of labor, which is definitely a form of skin stimulation for the infant. Following birth, human mothers have the need to hold, caress, and touch their babies.

Loving, caressing and mothering of babies is absolutely necessary for their survival. In 1915, Dr. Henry Dwight Chapin reported that in foundling homes throughout the U.S. where babies were given adequate nourishment and cleanliness, nearly every infant under two years died. The mortality rate was almost 100 percent. He had discovered the policy at the time was "no coddling." The babies died from lack of touch. Human babies definitely need tender loving care to survive.

Equally important as surviving, is thriving. An infant is born with a powerful need to be held. His whole self, his whole being, call out to be in mommy's arms. This holding and touching are what give him the sense that the world is a safe place, that he is worthwhile, and that he can trust. Babies need human skin-to-skin contact. A blanket or a teddy bear is a poor substitute. They need to be held continually. Touch is vital.

You cannot spoil a baby with holding - actually, the more the better. Mary D. Salter Ainsworth, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, conducted a study of twenty-six infants and their mothers. After studying them for a year, she discovered that babies who were touched cried the least - even when left alone. There is no such thing as too much holding of infants.

For babies to grow up to be loving, caring, affectionate and considerate adults, they need to experience and abundance of devoted touching and cuddling. This touching not only ensures their survival, but gives them a feeling of being loved and cared for. When babies feel loved, they are able to grow in that love and give love to others. Touch is vital.

Read the next parenting article on talk To your young child >>
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