The hugs and cuddles of his parents and loved ones are very important in the bonding process and in developing a baby’s sense of security.

This is the first sense to appear in the fetus, at about the seventh week of pregnancy. “Tactile receptors first develop around the mouth, then the face, and then the palms of the hands and soles of the feet,” says Dr. Cousineau. The entire fetus responds to tactile stimulation around the 20th week of pregnancy.

In the womb, the fetus can feel any pressure placed on his mother’s abdomen, as well as the contractions of her uterus. Unborn babies also explore their in-utero world through touch: they love to snuggle and rub their noses against the lining of the amniotic sack—a little like children do with their blankets—and play with the umbilical cord or their feet.

“When the baby is born, touch is at first dependant on adults since he still can’t control his movements,” says the pediatrician. Then slowly, as his motor skills develop, an infant’s sense of touch becomes his most important. It allows him to explore his body and the world around him.

The hugs and cuddles of his parents and loved ones are very important in the bonding process and in developing a baby’s sense of security.

“Everything changes the moment your baby is able to intentionally reach for things, usually towards four months old. He’ll start by reaching for his mouth, then his face and body. He instinctively brings everything he can to his mouth, since his lips and tongue provide him with a lot of information,” explains the pediatrician. This is how he processes the various characteristics of an object.

Babies find physical and emotional security through touch. “The receptors located under the skin allow a baby to feel a number of different sensations: heat, cold, pressure or pain. When he registers unpleasant or painful information, he cries to inform the adult. Conversely, hugs, snuggles and warmth from his parents develop his sense of emotional security and their mutual attachment,” continues Cousineau.

The first contact with mom’s skin
“After I delivered my baby by C-section, the skin-to-skin contact was amazing for me. It’s so gentle and reassuring for a baby to be in such close contact with someone familiar, his mother, so soft and warm, and to feel her heartbeat. Being able to finally take your baby in your arms, caress him, kiss him and feel him is magical.” Gabrielle Beaudoin, Trois-Rivières, mother to Édouard (3 years old) and Charles (1 year old)

How to help

Caress and massage your baby during pregnancy. Feel free to caress your baby through your abdomen and massage your protruding belly. Of course, fathers can join in, too! (From pregnancy)

Foster skin-to-skin contact. Placing your newborn against your chest in direct contact with your skin is a great way to introduce your baby to the world. This also helps regulate baby’s breathing and body temperature. (From birth)

Help your baby feel his body. As soon as he is able to reach out his hands, you can place your baby on his tummy and then on his back, and give him various objects (rattles, developmental toys, etc.) If it’s warm enough, leave him in only his diaper so that he can also explore different surfaces with his entire body. You can also show him and name the various parts of his body when you massage him or snuggle with him. “Even just by kissing his toes, you help him define the extremities of his body,” explains Cousineau. (From 3 months old)

Explore textures. Solène Bourque, educational psychologist and special education teacher, suggests experimenting with touch to diversify tactile stimulation: put his hands in foamy bubbles or in play dough, for example. “Food also presents excellent opportunities to explore touch. Finger mashing a banana may be distasteful for parents, but it’s a great way for an infant to stimulate his sense of touch!” she explains. (From 6 months old)

Finger paint on a tray or cookie sheet. Once your child has completed his masterpiece, cover it with a sheet of paper, press evenly and gently remove the paper to keep as a souvenir to stick up on the fridge! (From 18 months old)

Play guess what it is: place an assortment of familiar objects (comb, mitten, toy car, spoon, etc.) in a cloth bag and ask your child to dig in the bag and try to recognize the objects inside. (From 2 years old)