As you plan your birth and new baby experience, think through the products you choose (from baby carriers to bubble bath), you can also imagine ways to stay physically close with your baby. Touch is about connection. Physical touch matters, a lot. It is the easiest way to connect directly and meaningfully with our babies – anytime, anywhere.
Babies come from a world of constant touch. They come from the womb. They have grown for nearly 10 months from a single cell to a full-blown human, all in the space of constant touch. Every opportunity we have to restore touch to our lives and theirs is an opportunity for greater love and longevity of closeness.
The planning you do around products will play a role in how much time you will spend touching your new baby. The goal is to think through your options with awareness. Cribs and strollers create distance. Baby wraps and co-sleepers create opportunities for touch.
Touch amplifies emotional connection. The electrical charge that pulses through our bodies is magnified and changed through touch. When we stroke our new baby’s cheek, hold them to our chest or grasp their little fingers, we are changed; they are changed.
Physically, our bodies release oxytocin during sustained touch. It only takes 6 seconds of continuous touch to experience heightened levels of oxytocin. That is the feel-good hormone that triggers feelings of love.
But there is a catch. Touch has to be direct skin-to-skin contact for the full release of oxytocin. In your birth plan, remember to ask for skin-to-skin time immediately after baby is born.
There are so many ways to touch skin-to-skin, and yet so many new parents are afraid to do just that. By planning ahead for baby, you can increase your confidence to jump into touch. Here are a few reminders of ways to bond through touch, and heighten those feelings of connection.
The first bath, and every bath thereafter (until they kick us out of the bathroom) is an opportunity to connect and show love through touch. Embrace the experience. Scrub their hair, tickle their prune-wrinkled feet, and gently pick away at that stubborn bit of grime even after it is gone.
Touch through baby massage has countless benefits, from helping us better understand each other’s cues to inspiring our babies bodies to grow. Generally a baby massage can last for 15 minutes. You’ll know when it is time to stop if they start wriggling a bit too much or start to cry. As you plan your birth education, consider a class in baby massage.
No matter how you feed your baby, try to make sure your skin is touching baby’s. Baby is getting more than nutritional nourishment from food. Your touch during feeding is a critical component of growth, health and bonding. As you think through the baby-gear portion of your birth planning process, learning about how to properly use pillows and other tools to support touch will benefit you and baby.
The best diaper changes can last a solid 30 minutes. Your baby has your full attention. After all, we can’t leave baby, even for a moment, alone on the changing table. You get to peel away their layers of clothes, notice every bit of their skin, laugh, play and fully engage. Cleaning up a mess may only take a few minutes, but the connections that can be shared during a diaper change can last a lifetime.
Now that my boys are 9 and 12, we don’t have nearly as much time to touch as we once did, but we still have our morning hugs. We wrap up in each other’s arms and I silently count for 6 seconds, knowing that a regular dose of oxytocin every morning will contribute to a better day for everyone. It is never too early to start the ritual of morning hugs.
Together, largely through touch, we form the bonds that will hopefully carry us through all the hard things that happen in life – theirs and ours. By truly connecting, we develop the empathy to experience each other’s reality with a depth that allows us to cry when they cry, and do a happy dance when they are happy.
From the first moments of planning your birth, remember the importance of touch. When we feel what they feel, they know. They feel appreciated. They feel loved. We feel loved.
To learn more about conscious parenting, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.
This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.
Published: August 12, 2015 | Reviewed by: Kim Walls, Natural Products Expert| Last reviewed: December, 2015