The power of touch for all ages

Valentine's Day is all about LOVE, and one of the best ways to convey love is through touch.  Here's just a little reminder about the amazing power of touch.  And as you go around today wishing a happy Valentine's Day to all, why not include a thoughtful touch (just keep it within reason ;)

* When a baby is born and is allowed immediate skin to skin contact with his mother, his temperature, breathing, heart rate, digestion and blood sugar regulate, his stress levels are reduced, he tends to latch on to breastfeed easier and his skin is even colonized with the same beneficial bacteria as the mother.  The mother also benefits: hormones to promote breastfeeding and mothering are stimulated and she is more relaxed.  My dear friend recently had her 3rd baby via  C-section and asked to be given the baby immediately.  The hospital where she delivered said they had never done this but agreed to it and recognized the benefits.  She said it was such a sweet time and was so glad she asked and they said okay.  She'll likely remember that moment forever.  This skin-to-skin contact is important throughout the first days and weeks and is ideally practiced with the father as well.  According to a recent study, the lasting positive benefits of skin-to-skin contact were seen in 10 year olds who were born premature and included a better response to stress, more mature functioning of the autonomic nervous system and better cognitive control than 10 year olds who were preterm and received standard care.

*  During the toddler and preschool years, children tend to want less snuggling, but when they are up for it, it's the best!  When my 4 year old has a tummy ache he asks to lay on my belly.  Studies have shown that this comforting touch can actually improve the immune response.  Pretty remarkable!  But it's one thing when they're sick and snugly, but what about when they're throwing a fit one minute and
then ask "hold me" the next?  I sometimes have to resist the urge to say "you'll be ok, you're a big boy" and remember that a child's urge to be held is a natural desire and actually helps to bring down stress hormones and makes them more secure and happier children and eventually adults.

*  Teenagers especially need touch.  Imagine the stressful world of grades, getting into college, fitting in, and trying to figure it all out…ugh!  If a simple hug, shoulder massage, kind touch from a teacher or even just the contact from a little one-on-one basketball can relieve any bit of that stress, we should be helping our teens out!

*So all of this works for us and our spouses too!  When you've been married for 2, 5 or 20+ years, sometimes we forget how huge a little touch can be.  Couple's who touch more also cooperate better and are happier in their marriages.  Whether it be a foot massage or a simple love pat, the little things really do count….and the toucher receives the same benefits as the touch-ee!

* And speaking of the benefits to the toucher, retired adult volunteers who gave massages to infants reaped more benefits (decreased depression, stress and anxiety) from giving massages than from getting massages.  That's not to say that they didn't benefit from the massage too.

No matter how young or old, a gentle touch adds more love to your day!  Who doesn't want a little more love!?

Happy Valentine's Day!

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