Touch is a nonverbal, yet deeply meaningful way to communicate with a child.
Feeling the gentle touch of a parent is comforting to a child. Touch is one of the first forms of communication between a parent and their baby.
Showing love through touch
Gentle touch sends a message of respect, and this can help your child feel safe.
When a father gives their baby a hug or a mother rubs her crying child’s back, their touch unequivocally says: “I love you.” This silent but clear communication between parent and child is powerful. Physical contact also helps build a bond between parent and child.
Regardless of your child’s age, the way you touch and hold them plays an important role in how you show your affection and support. In addition, physical contact with you helps your child develop.
Paying attention to your child’s cues
Some babies react more strongly to touch than others. They are more sensitive and sometimes find cuddling overstimulating. Some babies might even get cranky if you overdo it.
For this reason, you should pay attention to the signals your child sends you and learn to decode them. If your child seems like they’re done cuddling, take a break.
Gradually, you’ll learn what kinds of contact your baby likes (e.g., hugs, cuddling, hand holding, being carried in a sling, massages). You’ll also learn when or in what situations your baby likes to be touched.
To learn more, check out our fact sheets:
Things to keep in mind
Touch is a form of communication.
A parent’s touch helps a child feel secure and supports their development.
Paying attention to how their baby reacts to touch helps parents learn what kinds of contact they enjoy and decode the signals they send when they don’t want to be touched.
Scientific review: Liane Comeau, Ph.D., early childhood scientific consultant
Translation and adaptation: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: November 2017