The power of nurturing touch on child behavior

When we think of providing nurturing touch, what most often comes to mind may be skin-to-skin with our newborn, babywearing, or infant massage.

Nurturing touch continues to be a critical need for children (and adults!) of all ages. We just have to be more intentional to make time for cuddles, hand-holding, hugs, massage, and other forms of nurturing touch with our walking, talking toddlers, busy school-agers, and autonomy-seeking teenagers.

This video, featuring London massage therapist Carol Trower, discusses her work in using massage in UK schools to reduce bullying and problem behaviors. Not only are these goals met, but the children who receive massage are also reportedly more connected to one another, express more empathy, and have improved academic performance.

It’s an inspiring message of the power of nurturing touch for child well-being:

Understanding sensory processing difficulties in our children

Many families discover Attachment Parenting in their quest for how to raise their “spirited” children.

All children, evident from birth on, have their own unique temperament. For some children, their temperament traits may be challenging for their parents or teachers. Common among these possible traits are sensory processing difficulties.

Children with difficulty in processing sensory experiences — sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell — connect to regions in their brain and/or nervous system that may be overly or under-sensitive to that particular sense. For example, my daughter has great difficulty with the feeling of water — her nervous system is hypersensitive to certain touch experiences. I even have sensory difficulties with certain sounds, touch experiences, and light brightness.

In my family’s case, our sensory processing difficulties have likely a genetic component. But children can also develop sensory processing difficulties from sensory deprivation experienced early in life, especially those in the foster care system, those who’ve been adopted, and those who’ve experienced a traumatic early childhood such as in cases of overt abuse or neglect.

However your “spirited” child came to develop sensory processing difficulties, this video from Empowered to Connect gives an excellent overview of what sensory processing is and how difficulties with sensory experiences can impact child behavior:


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16 points to consider for your cesarean birth plan

Editor’s note: April is Cesarean Awareness Month, an international observance designed to reduce unnecessary Cesareans, advocate for Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), and help women heal from the sometimes-difficult emotions surrounding a cesarean birth. While Attachment Parenting International (API) promotes childbirth options with the least interventions, we also recognize that there are certain situations that necessitate interventions. What is most important is that parents research all of their options to be able to make an informed decision. A cesarean does not need to prevent a gentle delivery:

A family-centered cesarean is a relatively new concept that’s helping to make cesarean births gentler and more positive. In addition to giving a mother control over her birth, a family-centered cesarean — sometimes called a gentle cesarean — may also help facilitate early bonding between parent and newborn. This can help a family to start out feeling attached and connected from birth.

Certainly, if you’ve had an unwanted, traditional cesarean or any negative birth experience, it does not mean that you cannot have an attached relationship with your baby. However, having a positive birth experience can make for an easier transition into parenthood and can also reduce the chances of postpartum depression.

What is a Family-Centered Cesarean?

The goal of a family-centered cesarean is to focus on what will make the experience better for all members of the family. Since every family’s wishes and desires are different, a family-centered cesarean can look different for each family. Also, the fact that policies vary greatly from one hospital to another may determine what is and is not possible. (For example, some hospitals do not allow a doula in the operating room.)

Gentle practices that some families may desire during a family-centered cesarean include having the baby walked out more slowly than in a traditional cesarean, delayed cord clamping, and allowing for immediate skin-to-skin with either parent. Allowing the mother to nurse in the operating room, keeping mother and baby together in the recovery room, and having newborn tests and procedures done with the baby on mom’s chest are other ways that a family-centered cesarean can support early attachment.

In my own experience, I had both a planned and unplanned cesarean. When my second child was born in 2012, I arrived at the hospital in labor expecting a vaginal delivery like I’d had with my first child. I was shocked to find out that my baby was in breech position, and he was delivered via cesarean less than an hour later. I hadn’t planned for a cesarean and had never heard of a family-centered cesarean. Fortunately, in my situation, the hospital policies already included having mom and baby together in the recovery room and other early bonding practices. However, had I known what options I had to make my cesarean a more family-centered experience, I would have felt more in control of my birth and less scared and upset upon learning I’d need a cesarean.

When I was pregnant with my daughter two years later, I was hoping for a VBAC but learned early in the third trimester that she was breech as well. I ended up having a second cesarean, but this time I was able to research my options and created a cesarean birth plan. Though it wasn’t the ideal birth that I’d initially imagined, it ended up being the most positive of my 3 children’s births.

If you’re having a planned cesarean by choice or medical necessity, or if you are hoping for a vaginal birth but want to consider your wishes in case it becomes a cesarean, you may want to consider writing a cesarean birth plan that covers both the cesarean itself and the recovery period. Talking to an obstetrician about it in advance can help you understand what is possible at your hospital.

Points to Consider When Preparing for a Family-centered Cesarean:

  1. Practice breathing and relaxation techniques to use before and during the cesarean. This can help you stay calm and manage stress or discomfort.
  2. Play music in the operating room, if allowed. It can help in creating a comfortable and calm atmosphere.
  3. Have an additional support person/doula in the operating room and/or recovery room, if allowed. A doula may help with relaxation or be a source of emotional support. Research shows that having a doula leads to higher satisfaction with the birth experience.
  4. Ask to have one arm unrestrained in order to hold the baby as early as possible and facilitate early bonding.
  5. Before beginning, have someone ask, “Are you ready to have your baby now?” This can help you feel a little more in control of your birth.
  6. Have the cesarean performed slowly with the baby walked out slowly and gently which is gentler for the baby than a traditional cesarean may be.
  7. Ask the doctor to explain the process as it is happening. This can help you to feel more present and connected with the experience.
  8. Have a warm blanket available during the surgery for your comfort.
  9. Have the screen lowered or a mirror at the time of delivery, or have a clear surgical drape, so you are able to see the baby’s birth.
  10. Allow your partner to announce the baby’s gender.
  11. Have immediate skin-to-skin contact. This is one of the earliest ways to bond physically with your baby.
  12. Delay cord clamping. Keeping the cord attached longer allows for increased blood flow from the placenta, which has many health benefits for the newborn.
  13. Breastfeed the baby as early as possible, in the operating or recovery room. In addition to being a means to connect physically with your newborn, this has other benefits including improved lactation and less loss of blood. Feeding a baby colostrum within the first hour of birth also increases the chances of a successful breastfeeding relationship.
  14. Keep the baby with you in the recovery room to allow for more opportunities for bonding and nursing.
  15. Delay baby’s first bath to give the baby more time to bond with parents. There are also health benefits to this, as research shows that leaving on the vernix (the white substance many babies have on their skins after birth) can benefit a baby’s immune system.
  16. Have newborn tests and procedures done with the baby on your chest so you aren’t separated.

While having a positive birthing experience is desirable — as it is a part of our initial parenting experience — it’s important to remember that it doesn’t define our parenting journey. There will be many more events and moments for us to bond and connect with our children.


         Additional API Resources on Gentle Cesarean Births:

API’s First Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting

Personal stories on APtly Said, API’s blog:

— “A special door

— “I took back control of my cesarean

— “5 lessons learned about Attachment Parenting after a cesarean birth

Professional insight on The Attached Family, API’s online magazine:

— “What Goes Into a Family-Centered Cesarean Birth Plan

— “What to Do When a Cesarean Becomes Necessary

The importance of attachment cannot be overestimated

Imagine an entire generation of secure attachment

Positive discipline begins at birth

Editor’s pick: How your childhood shaped your adult personality

Parenting is largely undervalued in our society. So much discussion among politicians and policymakers centers on public education, gender equality, and poverty alleviation. These are all important areas, but parent support is glaringly missing from the list.

When I refer to parent support, I mean research-backed parenting education for all parents regardless of income class or at-risk group.

Relatively few parents seek out parenting classes when they’re not court-ordered. Many parents do pick up a parenting book from time to time, or seek out support from Facebook groups, or search for specific parenting questions on the Internet. But there is much to be considered whenever any parent solicits advice in how to raise their child. Most parents don’t feel they have the time do the homework necessary to make sure their references are up-to-date, accurate, and aligned with their family values and personal parenting goals.

Media Analysis Guidelines for Parents

It’s important that we all learn how to read between the lines on any media report about parenting, so we can make informed decisions on how to raise our children. Attachment Parenting International (API) created these guidelines to help parents to be able to better discern appropriate resources amid the clutter of information that bombards us everyday:

What’s fact or fiction in parenting news?

Get the most out of a scientific study

Trusted resources

API supports parents in raising their children in a way that meets all of their needs for healthy development, not only physically but also socioemotionally. Growing up without a close, warm, trusting, and sensitively responsive attachment to the parent can have serious, lifelong consequences for a child. These children grow into adults who then struggle with raising their own children in a way that is warm and loving. In many ways, we could view this as a mental health crisis.

Not only that, but research also demonstrates that certain childhood events can alter our biological stress responses, translating into physical health problems not only in the affected individual but in his or her DNA with the possibility of being passed down the family tree through epigenetics. From this perspective, the lack of consistent parenting education available and promoted to all parents is a public health crisis on many levels.

Attachment Matters

API explores the effects of insecure childhood attachment on adults in-depth in our latest ebook, Attachment Matters. Receive your copy of this ebook with a donation of $25 or more to API.

To get a better feel for the specific effects of parenting that is not in line with research, this API Editor’s Pick highlights the Psych Central post, “Unloved in Childhood: 10 Common Effects on Your Adult Self” by Peg Streep, a parenting book author from New York City, USA. It’s important to note that while this post refers specifically to mothers and daughters, the effects of a son feeling unloved is much the same. These 10 effects include:

  • Insecure attachment
  • Undeveloped emotional intelligence
  • Impaired sense of self
  • Lack of trust
  • Difficulties with boundaries
  • Tendency toward toxic friends and partners
  • Fear of failure
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Extreme sensitivity
  • Inner conflict.

What I particularly like about this post is how it draws attention to the fact that the problem is not so much how well the parent perceives he or she loves the child, but rather, what’s important to that child’s development is the sense of love from the child’s perspective. It’s all about how the child perceives he or she is loved her by the parent. That’s an important distinction.

The author has so much to impart on this subject, so be sure to read the entire post, but here’s a quote I found especially enlightening:

“Because the culture stubbornly believes that all mothers are loving and that mothering is instinctual, the unloved daughter mistakenly believes she’s the only child on the planet to find herself in this predicament. As a result, she feels isolated and afraid, and is likely to continue to self-isolate because of her deep shame. She’s not likely to tell anyone. More than anything, she wants to belong to the tribe — those girls who hug their moms and laugh with them.” ~ Peg Streep, Psych Central

Parents, I urge you to be the parent whose children — no matter their age — finds it easy to laugh with you and who feels completely comfortable in seeking out a hug with you anytime. Don’t be afraid to be warm toward your child, don’t be afraid to offer comfort to your child night and day, don’t be afraid to use positive discipline rather than spanking or timeout, and don’t be afraid to be different from your friends and family. Seek out your free parenting support from a local API Support Group or the API Warmline.

Attachment Parenting as the golden rule of parenting