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Touch is one of a baby's most highly developed senses at birth. Holding, caressing and cuddling your infant is crucial to helping her feel safe and secure.
Rubbing and stroking an infant's skin sends messages to her brain to increase levels of beneficial hormones and chemicals.
Another activity that comforts babies is sucking. Because babies get satisfaction from oral stimulation, sucking calms them -- and it can relieve discomfort.
Repetitive, rhythmic movements such as rocking also comfort babies, perhaps because of their need for predictability -- knowing what comes next, knowing that a swing back follows a swing forward. Babies also like rhythmic, repetitive sounds that remind them of the noises they heard in the womb: a ticking clock, a whirring fan, sounds of the ocean. They also like slow, lilting music and lullabies.
Babies do not like:
- Abrupt changes in volume such as a balloon popping, a door slamming or loud voices
- Irregular movements or sounds
- Abrupt changes in environment; for example, when the child is playing on the floor and someone comes up from behind and picks up the baby and goes somewhere else
- Bitter and very sour tastes
Kelly King Alexander, "Sweet Comfort: What Soothes a Baby and Why" Parenting, September 1998, pp. 102-107