CONNECTING THROUGH TOUCH
Touch is the first sense we acquire and is our first language, so why we have so called ‘experts’ advising couples to put their new baby in it’s own bed, and practice ‘controlled crying’, is nothing short of barbaric!
Being able to communicate non-verbally is hardly new. Researches have long documented the complex emotions and desires that our posture, motions, and expressions reveal. But, until recently, the idea that people can impart and even interpret emotional content, via another non-verbal modality – touch – seemed questionable, even to researchers such as DePauw University psychologist Matthes Hertenstein, who has studied this.
In 2009, he demonstrated that we have an innate ability to decode emotions via touch alone. In a series of studies Hertenstein ahad volunteers attempt to communicate a list of emotions to a blindfolded stranger solely through touch. The results suggest that for all our caution about touching, we come equipped with an ability to send and receive emotional signals solely by doing so. Participants communicated 8 distinct emotions – anger, fear, disgust, love, gratitude, sympathy, happiness and sadness, with accuracy rates as high as 78%!
If touch is a language, it seems we instinctively know how to use it
LEARNING THE LANGUAGE OF TOUCH
We begin receiving tactile signals even before birth, as the vibration of our mother’s heartbeat is amplified by amniotic fluid.
“Its an essential channel of communication with caregivers for a child,” says San Diego State University School of Communication emeritus professor Peter andersen, author of Nonverbal Communication: Forms and Functions.
A mother’s touch enhances attachment between mother and child and it signifies security (‘you are safe, I am here). A mother’s touch also seems to mitigate pain in a child.
University of Miami School of Medicine’s Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute, has linked touch, in the form of massage, to many benefits, including better sleep, reduced irritability and increased sociability amoung infants.
TIPS FOR CONNECTING THROUGH TOUCH DURING PREGNANCY AND BIRTHING
- Both Mum and Dad stroke and massage your baby in utero, (i.e. your pregnant belly), whilst talking to your baby
- Only Mum and/or Dad’s hands to touch baby when born, i.e. ONLY your hands to receive baby at birth
- Bring baby onto your chest, talk, stroke, massage gently your new little baby, whilst talking to your baby
- DO NOT let anyone else hold or touch your baby in these first few hours, following birth (unless medically indicated)
- Enjoy skin to skin contact
BEYOND BIRTH – TIPS FOR CONNECTING THROUGH TOUCH
- Hold your baby close
- Stroke and touch your baby, whilst talking, singing
- Don’t ever leave your baby to cry. This is their only way of communicating and your job as a parent is to find the reason. The earlier you pick your baby up, the quicker the crying will stop. It is very often a guessing game, trying to discover the reasons for the crying, but most of the time your baby will stop crying, just because you have acknowledged his need.
- Don’t ever underestimate the power of touch! Lots of cuddles and kisses. You are not ‘spoiling’ your baby, you are teaching him you love him very much and that a cuddle solves many issues in life.
- As he gets older there are many games to play, which include touch.
- Most importantly – enjoy this closeness and you will find he will grow up to be a loving, caring adult.