Kangaroo Care & The Importance of Human Touch
Right from the very start of life, touch is one of the most vital parts of life. We need it in order to survive.
A phrase that's gaining a lot of speed lately is Kangaroo Care.
This term means that right after birth, babies are placed directly on mum (or dad), skin-to-skin. More hospitals are enforcing this as standard practice and doing away with taking babies to the nursery. A babies' greatest need after all, is their mama!
Benefits of Kangaroo Care:
For baby -
-stabilization of baby's heart rate
-quicker weight gain
For mom -
-increased milk supply
-increased confidence in caring for their baby
The idea of Kangaroo Care extends into baby-wearing. Not only is it more convenient than pushing a stroller around, but babies actually really do need to be held. The months after birth are considered the fourth trimester, because baby is not completely done gestating. They still get all their nutrients and everything from mum.
There's a terrific article on the website 'Breastfeeding Today' that has a very interesting concept that I'm going to share here. I recommend reading the whole article in the link, it's very fascinating, but mainly I wanted to talk about the four types of mammals.
"Cache, Follow, Nest, & Carry Mammals
Cache mammals : These include the deer and rabbit. Cache mammals are mature at birth. Their mothers hide their young in a safe space and return to them every 12 hours. Consistent with this behavior, the milk of cache animals is high in protein and fat. It sustains the young animals for a long time because babies are fed infrequently.
Follow mammals : The giraffe and cow are follow mammals and like others of this group are also mature at birth and can follow their mothers wherever they go. Since baby can be near the mother throughout the day and feed often, the milk of the follow animal is lower in protein and fat than that of a cache mammal.
Nest mammals : These include the dog and cat. Nest mammals are less mature than cache or follow mammals at birth. They need the nest for warmth and remain with the other young from the litter. The mother returns to feed her young several times a day. The milk of nest animals has less protein and fat than cache mammals. But it has more than follow mammals who feed more frequently.
Carry mammals : This group includes apes and marsupials, such as the kangaroo. The carry animals are the most immature at birth, need the warmth of the mother's body, and are carried constantly. The milk has low levels of fat and protein and they are fed often around the clock.
Humans are definitely carry mammals. Human milk has the lowest fat and protein of all mammalian milks. That and our immaturity at birth mean human infants need to feed often and are meant to be carried and held."
And this necessity of being held and touched doesn't just stop immediately after birth though. As babies grow & develop they need to keep experiencing the benefits of touch. Even past infancy, well into adulthood, and basically for the rest of our lives, human beings continue to crave touch.
Who doesn't love a good hug? Not only do they feel great, but they're good for you too! They strengthen the immune system, decrease stress, & improve anxiety. You know how sometimes when you're feeling down, you just need a hug? No wonder it makes you feel so much better afterwards!
As well, other types of non-sexual touch like handshakes, pats on the back, even high-fives, help build trust & co-operation amongst friends and co-workers.
A Quick Note About Consent
Seriously, everyone does benefit from adding appropriate touch into their lives. But there's a key word there: appropriate.
Know when it's right and warranted to hug someone or shake their hand.
Though touch is a valuable and important part of our lives, there are some people who simply don't want to be touched. And that is totally okay.
We all need to respect everyone's decisions of what they want to do with their body.
It's vital to remember this because it starts with our own children. If we want to raise this next generation into amazing people who respect each other's personal space & the right to say "no", it all starts with parents.
If your child doesn't want to hug a family member, or sit on Santa's lap, please listen to & respect your child's wishes for their own body. Their body is really the only thing they have complete ownership over. Their body, their choice.
I wanted to mention another way to gain all of the awesome benefits of touch, if you're not a super touchy feely person. I have my awesome boyfriend Mike to thank for this one!
The other day we were talking about Jiu-Jitsu, which he is a competitive athlete in. He was mentioning that he had read somewhere that doing a martial art is really good for you not only physically but emotionally. Being around like-minded people, in an environment where you're all working together, and touching, has helped many people get past depression and other issues in their lives.
So if you're feeling down but don't particularly want to go up to random people you know and start hugging them, practicing a martial art may just be for you!
Lots of cool ideas to think about, eh? Writing this definitely makes me want to snuggle!
Now, I want to know, how do you all feel about touch? Let me know in the comments! :)