Do you touch your baby often? Does your baby touch things often? These seem like simple questions to answer with a resounding, “Of course!”
While it seems like your baby touches everything she can, and is being constantly touched through feedings, cleanings, play time, and cuddle time, touch is so important for your baby’s development that it’s worth considering as way more than just an afterthought.
From birth, your baby’s sense of touch is heightened. That’s because the most developed part of her brain at this age, the sensory cortex, is the part that processes touch.1 And, it’s this touch sensation that also helps your baby develop and learn in many important ways.
First, touching your baby and letting her touch you and other loved ones in return will help her develop her attachment and trust. The more safe and attached she feels, the less her brain has to worry about survival in order to spend more time and energy on learning!
Second, encouraging your baby’s sensory exploration via touch will help her learn about her immediate environment, common objects, and so much more. Plain and simple, touch is the earliest and best way for your baby to develop an understanding of the world around her. So, try to make a conscious effort to have every touch and feel truly count!
How can I use touch to develop my 0- to 3-month-old baby’s sensory exploration skills?
- Participate in kangaroo care. In a warm, cozy room, place your naked baby on top of your bare chest. This will help you build a bond and attachment with your baby. It can also regulate body temperature, breathing, sleep, body weight, and oxygen saturation.2
- Encourage naked playtime. Did you know that encouraging your baby to play in her “birthday suit” can help her become more aware of her body, how her body moves in space, and the different textures and sensations she feels touching different things in her environment?3 Yes, playing naked is a fantastic way to support your baby’s body awareness and sensory exploration! And don’t worry, it’s completely safe to do as long as you make sure she plays in a warm room with a soft, comfortable surface to play on. Worried about accidents? No problem. Just use pee-pads, towels, or an easy-to-clean surface for playtime.
- Provide plenty of bonding moments. Respond to your baby’s needs quickly and consistently.4 While doing so, make sure to touch and caress your child. Your familiar touch, scent, sound, and sight will help her focus and develop her sensory skills.
1 Nugent, K. & Morell, A. (2011). Your Baby is Speaking to You. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
2 Cleveland Clinic Children’s (2011). Kangaroo Care. Cleveland Clinic Children’s. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/childrens-hospital/health-info/ages-stages/baby/hic-Kangaroo-Care.aspx.
3 Warnick, M. Baby’s Naked-Time Tips. Parenting. Retrieved March 3, 2014, from http://www.parenting.com/article/baby-naked-time-tips.
4 Maryland State Department of Education (2010). Healthy Beginnings: Supporting Development and Learning from Birth through Three Years of Age.