There is a lot of evidence that touch is an essential component of optimal health, which is extremely important in the early years of life.
Immediately after their birth, pet animals need to be licked by their mothers. If for some reason this does not happen, they usually die unless their skin is stimulated otherwise. (By the sixth week, human babies “learn” the unique smell of their mothers.) In the nineteenth century, a significant number of children died of a disease called “marasmus”, medical a term of “severe total exhaustion.” The cause may be extreme malnutrition, but in many cases it is explained by a lack of affection, with most deaths being recorded in childcare facilities and orphanages. In 1915 a New York pediatrician reported, that all children under 2 years old die if they are placed in such establishments. It is due to the fact that these babies are not provided with care and love, according to the advice of the majority of nineteenth-century pediatricians, opponents of over-care and fuss about young children. Love is transmitted through a sense of touch and its failure can be fatal. Throughout the 1930s, the practice of providing “maternity care” was introduced in healthcare facilities and homes for young children. In Bellevue Hospital, New York, this leads to a decrease in childhood death from 35% to less than 10% in 1938.
Numerous experiments have been carried out on animals, showing indisputably that the care (by humans) in the earliest period creates emotionally more stable and tranquil animals. Dr. Ashley Montague, in his excellent book The Touch, commented on similar research, including an experience in which 304 rats were eliminated from the thyroid gland, 79% of the animals with no care died, and of those who received human contact – only 13%. An experiment with rats also proves that after removal of the children from their mothers there is a decrease in the content of some vital organisms, including the growth hormone. In one study, a group of newborn rats remained in their mothers (control) and two other groups were separated and treated with a soft brush. One of the experimental groups was subjected to slight strokes and the other to the strong ones. The latter group, in which skin stimulation resembled gentle treatment, showed no change as well as control, whereas in the group subjected to slight stroke, there was a significant decrease in growth hormone level as well as a decrease in activity of the brain, heart and the liver. A number of other trials provide additional evidence that skin stimulation or touch is one of the vital elements at an early age. Apart from nutrition, it is perhaps the most important thing for life.
Human babies grow best when touched and loved, when they are being talked to and sung, when mom and dad hold them in their hands.
In an unpublished study, Weinginger reports that small babies whose backs have been tapped by mothers since the age of ten months are less likely to suffer from cataracts, colds, vomiting and diarrhea. Recently, premature babies in cuticles have been found to be more likely to survive and develop normally if treated on a daily basis with touch. This method is based on the experience gained in a home for babies in Bogota (Colombia), where they could not afford to provide incubators for all premature babies. It was found that they felt great in a diaper that was pierced through the mother’s shoulder between her two breasts.
According to some claims, people suffering from a lack of affection and touch at a young age, experience an unnecessary need for touch in their mature lives, and this often causes them emotional problems. Women who have not been sufficiently loved by their husbands often use the sexual act as a means of provoking the love that they really need. The unlikely person, regardless of age, is likely to have a biochemical profile that is quite different from the profile to the one who was generously loved and gentle.
In a recent study conducted at the University of Indiana, students who had books from the library were interviewed on leaving the room. Together with the specific questions related to their opinion about the library, they asked them if the librarian of the loan office had smiled at them. Her attitude was totally the same to everyone, except for one detail: every second student she gently touched her hands at the time of returning the reader’s card. Those who were in touch had a better understanding of the library as a whole and often had the feeling that the librarian sent them with a smile, although that was not true.