The Importance of Touch, Part 2
How best to bring about a happy infant? I encourage churches to promote holding and cuddling of infants. Babies have historically been held close by their parents for millennia; this allows the infant to observe what his parents are doing and assures him that he is safe. A stroller, a bouncer seat, and all other infant paraphernalia do not bring the same reassurance, though they may temporarily quiet down an infant. .
Why do babies want to be held and comforted so frequently? Young babies do not realize that they are a separate individual from their caregiver. They are convinced Baby and Caregiver make one person.
Babies want to be in community with us. They want to be involved in the activity of the day. They want to be talked to and held. They want you to make silly faces and use silly voices to entertain them.
To an infant, touch is the physical equivalent of saying “I love you”. Babies do no better in isolation than do children, teenagers or grownups.
A babe placed in a playpen or bouncer seat for the convenience of the nursery staff’s social hour is effectively placed in solitary. She does not know she is safe; she does not believe she knows any of the workers. Small wonder that she cries!
What happens when an infant in the nursery cries and it is immediately picked up, talked to, and comforted? What happens when a child learns that if it cries, its cries will be heard and responded to?
In my experience, that child becomes more secure, and cries less frequently over time. The child smiles when he sees the nursery workers she knows and is willing to play for longer stretches of time. She knows that she is secure while the trusted nursery worker is in the room. I encourage all nursery workers to hold all the children in the room so that the child learns all the adults in the room can provide security. By taking the time to hold infants and provide them with security, workers are helping the children to associate the body of Christ with safety, security, and acceptance.
The task of the nursery worker is not, in my opinion, a minor one to be treated likely, but one that literally impacts the next generation in the Body of Christ.