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The Language of Touch

Posted on December 6, 2018 at 7:45 AM

The Language of Touch

Touch is the first language we all learn. When we are safely embodied in our mother’s womb we are feeling the waters surrounding us, touching the uterus wall, gripping and playing with the umbilical cord. It is what makes us feel safe, and to begin to make sense of the world around us.

We have been conditioned by western society to believe that we can ‘spoil’ babies by showing them too much love and attention. Inuit and African babies generally tend to be much calmer than western babies. In fact, they cry very little – certainly much less than babies in much of the rest of the world. Much of the difference seems to be that these babies are held constantly. Mothers carry their infants with them throughout the day, while they work. As a result, they learn to communicate directly with their mothers through touch while being carried on their mothers’ chests and backs. An Inuit baby, for example, is bundled skin-to-skin on her mother’s back, and lets her mother know that she is hungry by nuzzling, rooting, and sucking against her mother’s skin. To westerners, this quiet communication seems remarkable. Many of us believe that babies communicate by crying. But for the Inuit as for many African peoples, a baby communicates by touch – not by crying.

We can teach our baby this language before they have even taken their first breath. Massage can help encourage a healthy connection and cause the baby to respond. Massaging the abdomen in particular has powerful effects. Evidence shows just how important it is to support, love and nurture the new mother and foetus. The effects of massage stem way beyond a form of relaxation for the mother. It has far reaching effects on her baby in the womb, and therefore in the outside world. Teaching a mother to connect without words, using touch, is an important part of the nurturing process.

 

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