How Much Milk Does A One Day Old Baby Need The Emotional Power of Touch

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The Emotional Power of Touch

We live in a “touch phobic” society, says a psychologist. Humans like to have their own space without unnecessary intrusions. Even animals define their own territory. Dr. Edward Hall, professor of anthropology, has called this trend “proxemics”. The space we create around us depends on intimacy with others, our cultural upbringing, or socially acceptable boundaries that differ in Eastern and Western cultures. Touch varies from culture to culture. A kiss or a hug in one culture may not be appropriate in another. Nose rubbing in some societies will seem odd in others. Even a simple handshake can be frowned upon by some.

Yet touch is a primitive need not only in humans but also in animals. Anthropologist Ashley Morgan in her book ‘Touching’ says babies’ physical contact with their mothers is essential for development. Many animals spend a lot of time licking their young after birth. It’s not just to keep the youngster clean, but the tactile stimulation imparts security and warmth to the baby. Whether it’s a dog, a cat, a monkey or a human baby, they all need the touch of a mother.

Touch is non-verbal body language and is the fastest method of communication. The skin has a very complex nervous system. A warm touch stimulates oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” which builds bonding and trust. No man is an island and human beings need this bodily contact with others.

For a baby, the mother’s touch is his main source of comfort and security. Babies crave to be cuddled and carried several times a day. This intimate contact is important for bonding. While breastfeeding ensures frequent and intimate bodily contact, it is not the milk alone that contributes to the child’s well-being. According to some studies conducted by pediatricians, babies who do not get enough cuddles and care have a higher infant mortality rate. Even an autistic child who is touched and cuddled frequently can overcome their self-hugging isolation. Children want to touch and hug their parents. But as you get older, touch gives way to body language.

The importance of contact in marriage cannot be stressed enough. Touching or being touched communicates intimacy. It nourishes tenderness. A lot of touching takes place at the beginning of marriage. It peaks in the early years, but gradually decreases, contributing to marital problems. Husbands stop touching except when they want sexual favors. Affectionate touching becomes rare. What they don’t realize is that affection is what a woman’s body craves. It boosts his self-esteem. His skin is much more sensitive than a man’s. The true indication of a healthy and stable relationship is not how often a partner touches his wife, but how often she responds to his touch. The stronger the reciprocity, the higher the level of intimacy.

The touch of consolation can speak louder than words. An arm around a grieving person’s shoulders assures sympathy and concern, when words are difficult to express condolences. As Michael Kraus says, “Touch strengthens relationships and is a mark of closeness.”

Touching brings smiles to lonely people stuck in nursing homes. This gives them the feeling of being reassured that they will not be forgotten.

A pat on the back from someone who has done something exceptional is congratulations and boosts the person’s self-esteem.

A sick or suffering person craves to be touched by a friend or caregiver. It brings comfort. The Bible is full of incidents where people brought their children for Jesus to touch them. He touched the blind, the mutilated and even lepers. Why did he need to touch? Because he wanted them to feel his love, his warmth and his identification with them. There is the beautiful story of a bleeding woman who touched the edge of her garment and was healed. His faith was revealed to the crowd when He asked “Who touched me?” because he knowed that he had imparted healing to him.

However, compulsive touches that can’t keep their hands to themselves are a threat. This is a punishable offense as the recipients recoil at the touch and feel embarrassed and frightened.

Inappropriate touching in crowded trains or buses has sexual connotations. This type of sexual harassment must be denounced and punished.

Some conservative cultures prefer “no contact” greetings. They prefer to bow or hold their hands together in greeting.

Some see touch as spiritual contamination, especially with lower castes, sick people or menstruating women. Accidental contact should be followed by a cleansing bath.

Touch can have negative effects when it violates cultural, social and personal norms.

Touch is a silent trait and responds to an emotional need. As Henry Thoreau said, “If I can put a touch of a pink sunset in the life of a man or a woman, I will feel like I have worked with God.”

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