Babies are sensory beings, reacting to stimuli whilst in the womb and becoming more sensitive as they develop and approach the momentous day when they emerge into the world.
Virtually from the moment you feel your bump grow, your baby begins his or her sensory journey of exploration of the world through the senses, the first one being the sense of touch.
The gradual journey of touch begins at only 5½ weeks. At this stage the baby’s lips and nose are sensitive to touch, a sensation that spreads to his/her chin, eyelids and arms by week nine. During the 10th week of pregnancy, the baby’s legs become sensitive to touch. By the time the 12th week is reached, almost the entire surface of the baby’s skin is sensitive to touch.
By the 26th week of pregnancy, your baby will be able to respond not only to touch, but also to sound and may even move to the rhythm of music. During the last two weeks of pregnancy, a significant proportion of your baby’s reactions will be to touch and sound.
During the final stages of your pregnancy, your baby will kick and flex inside the womb, touching his or her face and legs, a major milestone which promotes brain development.
Sister Lilian, South Africa’s leading pregnancy and parenting advisor says that: “Being born naturally provides your baby with one of the first massage experiences and stimulates touch receptors in the skin. The shock of suddenly not being surrounded by the warmth and protection of your womb is made better by loving, skin-to-skin touch, nursing and cuddling. Your baby soon learns that he or she can feel calm and reassured through this touch.”
At one month, your baby is already learning about the world through frequent touches on the skin. At three months, your baby will love to touch your face and hair, drawing comfort and reassurance from your physical presence. You will notice your baby sucking and touching his fingers and toes and exploring through touching other objects with his mouth and in so doing learning about shape, texture, size and taste.
“Your baby’s journey continues as he grows and at six months, loving touch is important for your baby’s optimal growth digestive system. Babies can become thin and fail to thrive even if they are getting enough food if they lack touch and stimulation. So be sure to give your loving touch and contact generously as this is vital for a healthy and happy baby”, continues Sister Lilian.
There are many types of physical contact such as hugging, cuddling, caressing, embracing, rocking and kissing, which are fundamentally necessary for your baby’s healthy behavioural development as an individual.
“By 12 months, you can help your baby’s brain to grow and develop by continuing to stimulate it through loving touch. Mothers who give frequent and loving intense stimulation as well as encouragement in learning everyday skills usually enhances their baby’s development and progress more than one would think possible,” concludes Sister Lilian.
Taking care of your baby’s skin keeps the baby’s biggest and one of his most important sensory organs healthy and through ongoing loving touch, a special and long-lasting bond will be created between you and baby.
(Sister Lilian, Pampers, 12 February 2010)