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TOUCHING AND PHYSICAL CONTACT:



All infants have a strong and very real need for
physical contact. Without it, the deprivation is very real and may be
permanent. Your baby’s need for touching and cuddling is like food for physical
and emotional growth. Your infant’s need for physical contact strongly suggests
this physical/emotional/social being also needs to be “fed.” Without
such contact, your child “starves” physically, emotionally, and
socially.



What to do? That is fairly simple. Pick up your
baby, cuddle him, talk to him and make noises at him. Try to spend a lot of
time talking with him and physically interacting with him. When giving him a
bottle, hold your baby instead of feeding him in the crib or playpen. Several
times a day, pick him up and walk around, sit in a chair and rock, and be sure
his playpen or walker is not in a room by itself. It’s better for him to be
around other people than to be by himself. Talk with him and encourage other
people to do the same. If someone says, “What a nice baby,” ask them
if they want to hold your child. Your baby needs maximum physical contact and
interaction with a variety of people.



Although you do not hear much about it and parents
are usually reluctant to talk about it, some infants do not spontaneously
respond to touching and physical contact. They act as if they prefer being left
alone, not touched or held, and seem to really prefer being left in their crib
or playpen. What then? First, realize this probably specifically has nothing to
do with you. Parents say, “There must be something wrong with me since my
baby does not want me to hold her.” When baby regularly wants minimal interaction
with you, as difficult as it may be to accept, do not take it personally. No
one really knows for sure why this happens. Your child still needs to be
touched and to be interacted with physically. Continue to pick her up, interact
with her, talk and play with her, carry her around, cuddle and snuggle with
her, and nurture the capacity of your infant to interact physically with you.
If you are patient, gentle, and persistent, your infant most
always warms up to you and enjoys the interaction; chances are greater she will
relate more spontaneously. Also, encourage others with whom your baby interacts
spontaneously to cuddle, talk, and carry her around. The need is real; just
because she seems to resist or not reach out for physical contact and affection
is no reason to deprive her.



Does this mean you pick her up every time she
cries? Yes, for the first few weeks of life, although you are likely not always
able to immediately pick her up or sit down and rock her. You may be fixing
dinner or talking on the telephone or visiting with a friend or just taking a
few minutes to relax. If you usually respond physically to your child, it is not
a problem if you occasionally do not pick her up immediately. Should you always
hold her and rock her until she goes to sleep? Yes, again, for the first few
weeks of life. Your baby should be rocked or held if she is having difficulty
going to sleep. After she is four or five months old, though, you need only be
sure she is not hungry, does not need her diapers changed, or is not
experiencing some other obvious physical discomfort. Once you have assured
yourself your child is alright, there comes a time when she needs to learn to
go to sleep without being held or rocked. First be sure she is dry and
comfortable. Then go out of the room. If she does not settle, it is okay to
gently rub her arm or back but do not pick her up again. After three or four
such episodes, babies usually begin to develop a better pattern of going to
sleep. Leaving a music box playing in the crib may soothe her as she tries to
settle down.



When putting your baby down for a nap or to bed,
position the child on her back. Just think of the phrase, “Back To Sleep.” This is especially true while she is
still too young to raise her head or turn over. This is the best way to avoid
her accidentally getting her air passage blocked. Place her
on a comfortable but firm surface and be careful there is no bed clothing in
which she might get tangled or pressing on her face. Having her sleep in bed
with you or putting her on a chair or couch where she might roll into a corner
or get stuck between cushions is always a bad idea. Just keep in mind she is
very small and can become tangled or smothered quite easily and quickly.



If you are one of those adults who has no
natural inclination to pick up babies or otherwise interact with them, there is
no reason to feel guilty or self-conscious. A lot of people lack a spontaneous
interest in infants. Nonetheless, your baby needs physical contact. You must
give it to her as a part of your parenting responsibility. Be careful when you
give attention not to be uptight, angry, or resentful, for your baby can pick
up these feelings. It may not be one of your favorite things to do; still, your
child eventually grows to the point you can talk to each other, do things
together, play games, and interact in other ways. For now, though, be physical
with your baby – interact.



Children of all ages need physical contact. This
does not mean you pick up your toddler every time he wants to climb on your
lap. Just talk with him, touch him, and be sure you spend a little time doing
this each day. Children start out needing touching and physical contact; and
while they continue to need it, physical contact also becomes a means for
relating to children. For example, if you want a preschooler to slow down a
little, it is more effective if you tell him while touching his arm. If you
want to console your child and tell him things are OK, it is more reassuring if
you put your arm around him while you are talking with him. Get in the habit of
touching your children, playing games that require physical contact, and
physically expressing your affection and good feelings.





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