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Parent Stories

How a parent’s touch transforms children’s lives

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When a baby is gently touched, special nerve cells in the skin (called C-Afferents) become active. These cells signal  the baby’s brain to calm their breathing, heart rate and emotion. This also helps the baby make sense of other people’s voice and face: in turn, shaping their sense of security. The baby’s brain also responds to touch by increasing the flow of the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin.

Researchers (and more researchers) increasingly believe this cascade of hormones and calming responses provide the key to unlocking the brain’s capacity to develop social skills, empathy, attention and future resilience against stress and trauma.

Early interactions involving touch have a life-long impact on us all:  improving behaviour and mental health at primary school age.  Early affectionate responses can help reduce rates of mental illness by up to 50%, and increase mental well-being and resilience, healthy relationships and life-satisfaction in adulthood. And it is these connections that are the single greatest predictors for a long-life and healthy old-age (more about that here, and here).

There is, however, a small catch.

Touch – just on its own is not  enough to support these outcomes. Touch is most effective, when it is adapted and used in response to the emotional needs and feelings of each individual baby.

For some parents and babies, this early affectionate relationship comes easily , and is built without conscious effort. But researchers estimate that anywhere between 13% and 20% of all babies miss out on the interactions important in infancy, to such an extent it impacts on their early development.

However, affectionate, responsive, high-touch interactions can be  easily supported. Simply increasing responsive affection for babies most at risk,  may dramatically improve outcomes…even when other barriers cannot be removed.  For example, the impact of increased affection on babies is so powerful, research (and more research) has shown it can eliminate the toxic effects of poverty on early brain development, within a single generation. It can buffer babies against the developmental challenges of parental postnatal depression. And it can even change the activity of our genes.

Despite overwhelming evidence, governments still provide no systematic  funding to support touch education for new parents – particularly for those who would benefit the most. Baby in Mind is the only Australian charity working to change this.

We provide and fund the only accredited training available to health and early childhood workers in high-quality touch education and promotion skills. High quality touch education is simple, fun and effective… and is accessible to all families.


you’ll become part of a movement ensuring the future becomes a stronger, kinder and safer place for all our children.

Baby in Mind is a registered children’s charity based in Australia.

We offer free and subsidised training to anyone wanting to see all babies enjoy the life-long benefits that come from early relationships that are loving, healthy and secure.

Could baby massage courses for staff improve morale, empathy and job satisfaction?

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About three years ago, here are Baby in Mind, we were involved in a research project conducted by Angela Freeman, from University of Canberra. Working at the Canberra-based perinatal depression support service, PANDSI, Freeman’s research evaluated the effects of a short, low-cost, multi-disciplinary program for women and their babies facing severe and complex postnatal depression and anxiety. What we didn’t count on or plan for, were the effects of the baby massage component of the program on staff.

Read More

The Most Important Thing

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It’s hard to believe this photo of Rachelle and baby Rocco almost never happened.

For most of us, soon after the birth of a baby, we discover that photos can be misleading. Parenthood is, we discover, not a nappy commercial. We discover the day-to-day reality is more messy,blurry and relentless than anyone ever described. We join a secret club with other parents and go around shaking our heads,making cynical comments to each other about ‘those’ photos of clean babies, gazing lovingly at mothers who look like they have just awoken from 8 hours of sleep and been dressed by a team of Vogue magazine stylists.

When there is a perfect moment – a special cuddle, a loving look, a smile, a sleeping baby – we whip out the camera phone to gather precious, precious evidence that there were, after all, at least some glimpses of connection, buried in the chaos and confusion of parenthood.

But, for Rachelle, her family’s hope of stealing a moment of perfection here and there, came crashing down at her 20 week scan.

Here is her story. Read More

The Baby Listener

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My baby cried. A lot.

Soon after her birth, I discovered the biggest parenting in-joke: it’s the one (often accompanied with a roll of the eyes) about the wealth of advice we receive – lists, books, comments – which is usually contradictory and often unhelpful. In fact, one of my child health nurses would share the joke with me – I think in an attempt to help me relax and remember that wonderful platitude that “all babies are different” and I was just doomed to have a baby who cried. Read More

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