Babies have a biological need for close physical affection. Nothing is more important to their emotional, physical and intellectual development than a comforting cuddle or a loving touch. What is certain is that babies who are cuddled, stroked and caressed are more likely to grow up to be loving social beings. They also gain independence and confidence, which leads on to an important milestone by the end of the first year: the ability to play alone.
Babies who are regularly held and touched gain weight faster, develop stronger immune systems, crawl and walk sooner, sleep more soundly and cry less than babies deprived of close physical contact.
Children who are given plenty of physical affection show more task orientated behaviour, less solitary play and less aggression at school. They also achieve higher levels of educational qualifications in later life.
The physiological effects of positive touch include:
- Strengthened immune system
- Lowered heart rate
- Lowered blood pressure
- Increased circulation
- Reduced pain
- Reduced stress, anxiety and fatigue