When we speak of licking and love or skin stimulation, we are quite obviously speaking of a fundamental and essential ingredient of affection, and equally clearly, of an essential element, an important biological need in the healthy development of every organism. It is the sense of touch that gives us our sense of reality. A foetus gets a continuous massage for the entire nine months, both from the amniotic fluid and from mother’s ‘insides’. In addition, a pregnant woman naturally massages her baby in the womb. If the baby pushes, the mother playfully pushes back, and this way she and baby develop a relationship. The infant feels the motions of the mothers hands, and begins to become familiar with the caress. Touch alters oxytocin which relaxes the individual, promotes touch, encourages bonding, promotes milk ‘letdown’ during breastfeeding and sets off uterine contractions that accompany childbirth.
Babies born prematurely are separated from their mothers for long periods of time. Premature infants are touch deprived because of being in incubators for long periods of time to keep them alive.
Dozens of research projects have shown the positive effects that different kinds of touching have on premature babies. They found that infants who were stroked and rocked gained more weight and were better able to track visual and auditory stimuli than those who were not stroked or rocked.
It is normal universal practice for premature babies in intensive care to receive regular doses of touch therapy everyday.
Everybody needs a dose of touch everyday.