Don’t shout at me yet……
I often talk about how you can’t hold a baby too much, how babies love touch and why you should never worry about picking your baby up. I am an advocate for skin to skin contact, nurturing touch, massage and cuddling babies.
I realised after doing a recent Facebook Live where I was talking about the idea that you can’t cuddle babies too much, that I had fallen into a trap which I try and avoid and which I see lots of parents doing which is generalising and standardising babies and babies reactions to experiences. I felt sad and disappointed that I had done this.
So here is the only truth; All babies are different.
All human beings are different. Yes, we all have the same basic needs and many of us react in the same way to the same things but being able to express ourselves in our own way and being respected for being an individual is, for me, the foundation of freedom. I want babies to experience this from the beginning of life which means we need to listen to babies and respect their individual needs in the way that they want.
How much we touch and respond to babies must be governed by babies themselves. One baby might love physical contact and touch, and another baby find it overstimulating. It’s true there is alot of science and research to support physical touch for babies (which I love to share if you check my social media feeds) but what if you are a parent of a high needs or highly sensitive baby. Is your baby werid or “not normal” because he does not like cuddles? Are you a “bad parent” because your baby does not want cuddles? The answer is of course NO. Your baby has his/her own experience of touch which must be respected to allow him/her to express himself/herself.
What are the signs of a highly sensitive baby?
If your baby finds touch and cuddles overstimulating, he/she may be sensitive. Again all babies are different but generally high sensitive babies are;
- Sensitive to the environment
- Prone to overstimulation
- Tire easily
- Have jittery arms and legs
- Have tense body
- Can talk alot (cry…)
- Have short sleeping patterns
- Have frequent feeding patterns
If your baby is highly sensitive, don’t worry. There are many reasons including adjusting to the world and having a developing nervous system. If you have any concerns, talk to your health visitor or GP.
Also please don’t worry. It’s estimated that 15-20% of children are highly sensitive.
What to do if you have a baby sensitive to touch?
Touch does have so many benefits for babies and children so introducing touch to a high needs baby is about respecting his/her boundaries, reading cues and doing things slowly.
- Highly sensitive babies can benefit from less intense types of touch such as baby wearing.
- Using containment holds where touch is focused in one place rather than across the body.
- Starting with non intrusive areas such as the feet and hands.
- Not removing clothes too much for massage or cuddles.
- Using a firmer pressure. Light pressure can be overstimulating for baby.
- Holding your baby for a shorter period based on their cues. Finding your baby’s quiet alert period, which is after a rest and feeding, can be a good time to try touch based activites.
- Always respond to your baby’s cues and respect when he/she has had enough.
- Take the lead from your baby.
- Repetition is good to give baby a chance to process experiences.
- Talk to your baby all the time and tell him/her what you are about to do. Watch for cues all the time.
- Don’t take it personally. Your baby is processing alot every day. Your baby loves you unconditionally.
I hope this helps if you have a highly sensitive baby. Most babies love touch and thrive from physical contact but not all. Following and responding to your baby’s cues means you communicate respect and love for him/her and it will make things easier, I promise.
Love Gayle xx