Frequently Asked Questions
4th Principle: Use Nurturing Touch
- How frequently should I hold my baby?
- Does API support the use of "baby equipment"?
- What does API think of families using "lovies"?
Years of research have demonstrated that human babies have very positive responses to touch and holding, both physiologically and emotionally. A baby is unable to understand that she is a separate entity from her mother or primary caregiver, but her awareness of separateness will come as she matures. This appears to be a survival mechanism designed to keep baby and mother, or primary caregiver, close together. Thus, it is important that babies be held very frequently as a baby benefits from a mother or father's warm touch, smell, and voice. It is very comforting for them to be held; therefore, they cry less.
We'd like to refer you to Ashley Montagu's book Touching, The Human Significance of the Skin, Mariana Caplan's book Untouched, and The Vital Touch by Sharon Heller. Our culture values independence so much that we begin distancing ourselves from our babies, consciously and unconsciously, from very early on, through the use of cribs, separate rooms, plastic infant carriers, bottle propping, and frequent separations.
We want parents to be conscious of this extremely important need for physical closeness by infants and older babies. Human touch and holding is really something we never grow out of. Adults have the same need for touch, unless they have grown up unaccustomed to affectionate human touch. Some adults will resist touch, especially if touch was only given to cause pain. Touch and holding is important from birth. It helps parents connect early with their baby, enabling parents to be sensitive to their baby's cues. Obviously, you can't hold a baby 24 hours a day; just be aware that it's very important to hold your baby when possible or have the father or other loving relatives hold your baby instead. Choose to rely less on baby gadgets, and opt to hold your baby in your arms or with a baby sling, wrap, or other carrier. As your baby grows, you will find she will be more independent, not less.
Babies are born with a definite set of physical and emotional needs. One of these primary needs is that of human closeness and interaction. These needs must be cared for in order to allow for optimum growth and development. The more you rely on baby "equipment," the less time you actually hold and interact with your baby. These gadgets can certainly be helpful when used sparingly. The key is to avoid overusing them when your baby really wants you. The more time you invest in the early years, the more independent and confident your child will become.
Certainly we need to stress that a parent or other attached caregiver would be the best "lovie" a child could have. There is no substitute for the warm, loving arms of a caregiver and the security that they provide for the child. However, we realize that sometimes a lovie (such as a stuffed animal or blanket) can be an appropriate tool, and as long as it is not overused, it can be comforting to some children. Some high-needs children require almost constant contact with a parent or caregiver. Sometimes this level of contact is not possible, especially in a household with multiple children. For instance, if you need to lay the baby down to take a nap, but the baby wants you to lie with him or her and you are not able to, a lovie might be an acceptable fill-in. If the lovie carries the scent of the primary caregiver (usually mom), it can be that much more soothing to the child. Additionally, for a child who is in a daycare, a lovie can be a comfort from home.
Introducing a lovie to a young infant could be as simple as tucking it into the sling with her while you carry her, or tucking it in with her as she sleeps contentedly in bed (with or without you). This should set up the lovie/sleep association. For an older toddler, introducing a lovie could be a bit more challenging since he will be more resistant to the caregiver substitute. Showing interest in it yourself may be enough to spark some curiosity for your child. Some children might enjoy being surprised with one, while others may prefer going to pick one out.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the lovie should be associated with positivity to the child. Putting a child in a room to cry it out with a lovie sets up a negative association and is unfair to the child. Try to be understanding in the process of introducing a lovie, and realize that it may take time and gentle persistence for your child to accept one.