The newborn baby’s sense of touch begins to develop right from seven to eight weeks of pregnancy. Did you know that the sense of touch is the very first mode through which you communicate with your yet-to-be born while s/he is still in your womb? By the end of 10 weeks of pregnancy, your little one will commence making tiny movements in your womb, which you won’t be able to feel right away, but may see on your 12th week ultrasound.
Also, your mode of communication with your baby in the initial months is largely through touching, i.e., when you are holding, feeding, cuddling, bathing and soothing her/him. So babies need touch to improve their senses and bond with the mother. Later on, your baby will utilize her/his sense of touch to adapt and learn about various textures and shapes of the environment around her/him too.
The sense of touch continues to develop and evolve during her/his first year and even later. Babies are usually born with very sensitive skin. The mouth, cheeks, face, hands, abdomen and the soles of your baby’s feet are certain areas that are particularly sensitive to touch. Apart from being a mode of communication, touching your baby’s skin will make her/him feel comforted. Your newborn is able to respond to touch with her/his grasp reflex (e.g., When you stroke the palm of your little one’s hand, s/he’ll curl his fingers around yours and grip them).
Most baby reflexes disappear as your baby gets older. Your baby will start turning her/his head and using her/his mouth to explore the source of the touch when you gently touch your baby’s cheek and this reaction is called the rooting reflex. When positioned on your chest, s/he might use the touch of her/his mouth to find your nipple to suck on and feed. Here’s how the baby’s sense of touch evolves each month:
Your baby will predominantly have her/his hands closed when s/he is one month old, but if at all they are open, your baby will enjoy grasping your finger when you touch her/his palm.
Your baby will begin to respond to gentle tickling and friendly touches. Also, your baby will start using her/his mouth, tongue and lips as s/he chews on a soft toy to explore its feel and texture. Your baby may enjoy having things placed in his or her hand. Your little one will also be able to notice the difference between hard and soft items at this age.
At four months, your baby will be able to reach out and touch things as his or her muscles grow and strengthen, especially in the arms.
Your baby touches and feels things that go like soft toys, blocks, dolls, cars, dresses etc. Also, your little one will be able to hold objects and grasp them with both hands. S/he may still use her/his mouth to feel textures and is likely to enjoy the feeling of being in the water, playing and splashing in the bath.
Spatial awareness of your baby begins to develop by this age. By seven months, touch will enable your baby to tell the difference between flat and 3D objects and s/he will enjoy touching objects that can be grabbed, twisted or spun, such as handles.
Your crawling little one will be more eager to have new things to touch all the time. Make sure the objects kept on their reach should child-friendly and safe (keep objects that are colourful or have moving parts, such as levers, doors or wheels that are safe to explore).Your baby will be still using her/his mouth to explore newer objects.
By the time your baby turns one year old, s/he will be exploring different sorts of textures like hard, soft, cold, wet, sticky and squishy. You kid won’t be exploring objects with her/his mouth as before and will have a better ability to utilize his hands to touch and play with different things.
Some natural techniques like cuddling and holding your baby often, having friendly skin-to-skin contact, e.g., rubbing on some lotion after a bath, giving soft toys that are safe to chew, and letting your baby feel different things on her/his skin like soft stuffed animals or a bumpy ball can stimulate and improve your baby’s sense of touch. When your baby is older you can give her/his toys of different shapes, sizes, and textures. Most importantly, a parent’s presence and loving touch are the most important factors improving your baby’s overall sensory development.
Also read: Recognizing Developmental Delays In Babies
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