Babys Sense of Touch

Your babys sense of touch is one of the earliest neural developments that happen in the embryo stage, inside the womb. Learn more about how your babys sense of touch develops in the first year after birth.

Last Updated: 22 October 2020

Babys Sense of Touch
Babys Sense of Touch

Your baby’s sensory development begins in the womb which helps him to sense your touch on the bump or a sudden difference in temperature. He may also respond to such sensory stimuli by moving or wriggling inside.

Pregnancy scan reports can show babies in the womb sucking their thumbs. This is one of the primitive touch developments for the growing baby because he is going to use this sucking reflex soon after he’s out from his mommy’s tummy. His tactile development continues to evolve throughout pregnancy and leaps during his first year.

Newborn

A newborn’s sense of touch can be greatly enhanced by encouraging bodily contact with the mother soon after birth. It is important to create a soothing environment to the baby in those first few minutes. The best facilitator of such conducive environment is the kangaroo care.

Kangaroo care

Kangaroo care is creating skin-to-skin contact of the mother and baby immediately after birth. Placing the baby on the bare chest of the mom has shown to bring about many positive effects including:

·         Listening to the mother’s heartbeat, the sound most familiar to the baby while inside the womb, helps in easier adaptation of the newborn to the outside world by the warmth and comfort of the mother’s touch

·         Enhances mother’s milk supply and kick-starts the breastfeeding process

·         Promotes overall health of the newborn including relieving the stress of the birthing process, boosting mental development and immunity and healthy weight gain

·         Prevents postpartum depression in new moms

Rooting reflex

A newborn’s touch sense is prominent in a few areas of his body such as the mouth, face and cheeks. He will try to explore anything that comes closer to his face through his mouth. Called as the rooting reflex, this allows the baby to find the nipple of the breast or bottle for latching by turning his head towards the direction of the object which comes in contact to his lips.

Baby massage

Massaging your baby is one of the best ways to boost sensory development. During a massage, the nerve points under the skin get stimulated which carry several long-term health benefits for the baby.

0 to 3 months

In the first three months, your baby’s sense of touch is stimulated every time you cuddle, bath, rock and feed him. Being held in your arms or on your lap while he is awake gives his early sensory development a great boost.

Though his motor skills are not developed enough to grasp an object using his fingers, he’ll tightly wrap around when he senses your finger on his palm. Through touch sensation, by three months, he’ll learn that things can be soft like your supple breasts or hard like the wooden handle of the rattle.

4 to 6 months

From the 4th month onwards, he is going to grab things lying around and his first experiment to study them will be by mouthing them. Though to adults mouthing isn’t a nice way to study an object, for a baby, it is his first line of study. A baby who grabs a toy to put in his mouth is exploring its shape, size and texture. And it is highly important to baby proof the areas he has access to.

Water can be an exciting sensory stimulation to your baby now. Make warm, interesting baths for him giving plenty of room to splash water and play.

By six months, other parts of his body including soles, tummy and arms show significant response to touch sensation.

7 to 12 months

Most babies will start to wean around this time and it is important to allow them to touch food during their meal times. They are sure going to gulp food down as their teething hasn’t developed yet, and of course expect mess more than you can imagine. However, it is vital to give them the experience of self-feeding and exploring the different textures of food with their hands.  Learn about choking hazards and age-appropriate foods before you allow them to grab food in their hands.

He is crawling and moving around a lot now. This gives him added chances to grab things and mouth them. Unless it is unsafe, you need not try to interfere with their natural development process.

Toys of different kinds of textures can help in his sense of touch development at this phase. Include playthings of different materials like wooden toys, steel utensils, squishy toys, bath toys, plastic toys etc.

By their first year, your baby’s sense of touch has rapidly developed. He would have explored a wide variety of textures and respond appropriately to many touch stimuli like tickling, heat and cold, dry and wet, itching, pain and depth perceptions through touch.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

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