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The Power of Touch in Newborn Development

written by: Bonnie • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 3/2/2012

Human touch and interaction is crucial in the development of newborns. Learn more how you as a parent or caregiver can create bonding experiences and encourage your infant's developmental growth.

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    Newborn and Infant Touch

    Almost everyone agrees that bonding between mother and child is very important to newborn development. Research has shown that skin-to-skin contact for the first several hours for a newborn is infinitely beneficial to the child on a physical, emotional, and mental level.

    The power of touch between any two humans is usually therapeutic, stress-relieving, and stimulating. A newborn needs to be touched for optimal development. Benefits to human-touch bonding include: promotion of a strong, loving bond between the newborn and their caregiver; alleviating the amount of pain during teething, colic, constipation, and medical procedures; better sleep patterns; and stimulating brain development.

    Below are several suggestions to create bonding experiences between you and your newborn. These suggestions are equally important for mothers, fathers, and any important caregiver in the newborn's life.

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    Creating that Bond

    1. Kangaroo Care: This technique involves cradling the newborn infant between the breasts in the kangaroo position. Traditionally used with premature infants to mock an incubator the benefits are present with all newborns.

    2. Sensitive Period: An optimal time for parents and baby to bond is directly following the birth. Many hospitals whisk the baby away to perform a few routine procedures. If mother and baby are healthy it is a good idea to consider discussing having the new baby stay with the mother after the birth for a while. Have the newborn placed on mother’s abdomen and the baby will intrinsically scoot toward the breast. It is physically beneficial for mother to begin breastfeeding as soon as possible.

    3. Breastfeeding: The health benefits of breast-feeding are huge and this intimate form of contact also contributes to bonding. Involve Dad by allowing him to sit close for eye-to-eye contact and place a gentle hand on the baby.

    4. Massage Therapy: This remedy is helpful to any human being, including infants. There are specific techniques to infant massage that use certain strokes and varying pressure to manipulate and stipulate the infant’s muscles and ligaments to achieve increased blood flow and improved circulation to benefit the child. Learning about these methods or contacting a certified infant masseuse can be helpful especially for an ill, blind, or deaf child. Gentle, warm, loving strokes on the body are all that is necessary for benefits to the newborn. Try giving the infant a massage after a bath or before bedtime to help him or her relax and sleep.

    5. Playing, Rocking, Snuggling, Bathing: These day-to-day routines are the fundamental building blocks of a strong relationship between caregiver and infant. Be sure to include loving skin-to-skin contact in these activities. Hearing the caregiver’s voice and making eye contact also play roles in bonding and foster healthy newborn development.

    The importance of touch for newborn development is indisputable. Gentle touch, preferably skin-to-skin, stimulates the brain and helps the infant to feel loved and secure which will lead to an amazing connection. Creating a bond with your newborn will help lay the foundation for that child to build healthy relationships in the future.