The Importance of “Skinship” – Learning How to Create a Bond with Your Child

05:10 | 11/09/2016

Mother-child interaction is essential for a child’s healthy development. 
“Skinship” is defined as a form of communication involving touch rather than words. Babies feel their mother’s love through her touch and being close with her physically. In this article, we would like to introduce you to the benefits of “skinship” and activities to increase this “skinship”.

The Benefits of “Skinship”

After experiencing “skinship”, the pituitary gland in the brain releases oxytocin [the love hormone].
During delivery, oxytocin is the hormone that helps women go into labor and release breast milk. However, we also know that oxytocin is released during mother-child interactions involving the sense of touch. When children are touched by their favorite people, oxytocin is released and they receive the following benefits:

・Deeper bond of affection
・Feeling of safety and trust
・Higher IQ
・Greater social skill
・Greater tolerance of stress

Also, the stimulus from the skin being touched is communicated to the brain, which causes the brain to releasegrowth hormone.
Growth hormone not only supports children’s growth but also strengthens their immune system and resistance to sickness.

“Skinship” helps deepen the bond between parent and child

Now let’s talk about how to use “skinship” effectively in everyday life with specific examples.

■Praise with strong emphasis

When praising your child, stroke his/her head and rub his/her shoulders and back with some exaggeration.
By reacting strongly, you are showing your child that you are happy which makes him/her even happier.


■Sleeping next to your child is a form of “skinship”

When napping, lying next to your child is a great form of “skinship”. 
By sleeping close to each other, you can hear each other’s heartbeats and feel each other’s warmth. This makes children, feel safe and secure.
Sleeping facing each other is the most effective way to transfer a sense of safety and help your child fall asleep comfortably.


■Use your hands to wash your child in the bathtub

During bath time, instead of using a sponge or towel, soap up your hands and use them directly to wash your child. 
Using your hands will enable you to deepen the feeling of “skinship” between you and your child.
It will also allow you to keep up with your child’s changing body.


 With “skinship” what is important is not the “length” but the “strength” of the    interaction

So how much “skinship” is necessary for it to be beneficial? 
The accumulated effects of “skinship” during the child’s newborn and toddler phaseslast their entire lifetime.
Let’s try to give in to our child’s desire for closeness whenever possible.

The more “skinship” time you have with your child the better.
However there are a lot of mothers out there that have limited time to spend with their child due to work and housework.

For these mothers,5-minute “skinship” periods are fine as long as they are going out of their way to make time to be close to their child.
Oxytocin is released after 5-10 minutes of “skinship” and often lasts as long as 50 minutes even if the child is no longer physically close with his/her mother during that time.
If time is limited make sure to make the best of the time you have and use those 5 minutes of “skinship” time wisely.

When it comes to “skinship”, it is more important that you are aware of its importance than how long each period is and how many times you use it.
Even if each “skinship” period is short, continuing to use it is effective in developing a deep bond with your child.

Source: Gymboree Japan

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    - Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP, Professor of Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine, author: The Happiest Baby on the Block

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