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Baby Care 24 Mar 2015

How 'touch therapy' helps strengthen emotional connect between parents and babies

Research suggest that regular skin-to-skin contraction of babies with their parents help in building and strengthening their emotional quotient, and bathing and massaging is the apt way to give your baby the much needed touch therapy.

Babies love to be touched. A warm embrace and a loving hug make a child feel loved and pampered. The next time you sing a song to your baby or play with their little toes and fingers, notice how they radiate with happy and zealous emotions. Wonder why this happens? Simple rituals and simple gestures actually have a significant effect on your baby’s development and growth.

As soon as they are born babies use their sense of sight, smell, touch and sound to learn about their environment. They enjoy activities that stimulate their senses, so the nurturing that parents provide them during day-to-day rituals has a profound impact on their reactions and development. Many researchers claim, of course with evidence that skin on skin contact helps in child development.

First instance of the fact was proved in a study happened in 1958. Post that, there have been many studies which have highlighted the importance & benefits of skin on skin contact. There are well proven concepts like Kangaroo Mother Care which prove that when mothers have continuous skin-to-skin contact with their low birth weight babies to keep them warm and often give them breast feeding.

Significantly, baby’s first emotional bonds are built from physical contact or touch. The consistent and nurturing touch of a parent has benefits beyond the moment like it can help babies develop self-confidence and the ability to relate to others. These results have inspired many clinicians including myself, to research the importance of touch and explore more ways of creating a positive impact on the development of baby, both physically and mentally.

Studies show that children who are deprived of sensory stimulation have diminished intellectual performance and cognitive development. In fact lack of stimulation can also manifest into physical issues. Even in my years of research, I have come to know that parents should take every possible opportunity to have skin-on-skin contact with their child.

A baby usually sleeps for 16-20 hours in a day and the only time he/she is introduced to a new medium is at bath time. A simple yet powerful way to increase the impact of touch therapy is through regular massaging your baby, before or after bath. It also helps in their development and can lead to improved physiological, cognitive, emotional and social development.

During bath time the water surprises the baby and the aroma and sounds create a magical world where the splashing and giggling excites and educates. While bathing, your baby is like a sponge, absorbing even the minutest detail helps them understand all emotions cognitively.

In fact, studies prove that infants who experienced routine touch and massage were 50 per cent more likely to make eye contact and are likely to have an overall positive expression than those who do not experience it.

Tips for effective baby bathing:

Bath time rituals vary across the globe; however there are a few best practices to keep in mind:

-  Wait for a time when your baby is relaxed, not hungry or cranky.

- Consider playing gentle music in the background while you massage & bath your baby

- If possible, find a warm room when giving baby a massage.

- Place baby on a soft surface during the massage and be gentle with the water

- Increase the pressure of your touch to avoid tickling.

- There isn’t a prescriptive amount of time for massage; rather, this is an ongoing commitment to baby.

Fact sheet: While bathing baby remember

- Babies’ skin is 20-30 per cent thinner than that of adults and is more vulnerable to irritants present in adult products. This is why baby’s skin requires extra protection and special care. Use clinically proven products which are mild and gentle.

- Babies sweat less than adults. This affects their ability to reduce body temperature and can contribute to rashes.

- Infant skin also absorbs and loses moisture more quickly than adult skin. - keep the baby’s skin moisturised.

- Research has also shown that water alone is not sufficient for removing all impurities on the skin. In fact, water only removes about 65 percent of oil and dirt and dries baby skin. - use mild cleansing & moisturizing products.

Physical contact or touch by Mom and Dad contribute to Baby's first emotional bonds, which may lead to building a foundation for emotional and intellectual development later in life.

Thereby, the next time you massage your baby, know this act of love means more to babies’ development and can have a lasting positive impact on them. Be gentle and make it fun!

The writer of this article is Dr Jayakar Thomas, Brand Advisor, Johnsons & Johnsons. The views expressed here are personal.

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