The following is a condensed version of this Principle. If you have questions about this Principle or how to apply it to your family situation, please contact an API Leader near you or post your comments and questions to API's forums.
Babies are born with urgent and intense needs and depend completely on others to meet them. Nurturing touch helps meet a baby's need for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation and movement. Parents who choose a nurturing approach to physical interactions with their children promote development of healthy attachments. Even as children get older their need to stay connected through touch remains strong.
Needs and the Benefits of Nurturing Touch
- For the child, nurturing touch stimulates growth-promoting hormones, improves intellectual and motor development, and helps regulate babies' temperature, heart rate, and sleep/wake patterns.
- Babies who receive nurturing touch gain weight faster, nurse better, cry less, are calmer, and have better intellectual and motor development
- Cultures high in physical affection, touch, holding or carrying, rate low in adult physical violence
How to Provide Nurturing Touch
- Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective
- Breastfeeding and joint baths offer opportunities to snuggle skin-to-skin
- Massage can soothe babies with colic, help a child unwind before bedtime, and provides opportunity for playful interactions
- Carrying, or babywearing using a soft carrier, meets a baby's need for physical contact, comfort, security, stimulation and movement, all of which encourage neurological development
- Be conscious to avoid the overuse of devices designed to hold a baby independently, such as swings, jumpers, plastic carriers, and strollers
Nurturing Touch and the Older Child
- Frequent hugs, snuggling, back rubs and massage all meet the older child’s need for touch, as do more physical play such as wrestling and tickling
- Wrestling and tickling should follow the lead of the child and should not be forced
- Use playfulness and games to encourage physical closeness
- If you find your child is too heavy to hold comfortably, provide the closeness that carrying provides by providing attention or comfort in your lap
- All humans (including adults) thrive on touch and the reconnection it provides