Sensations and Body Feelings

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Explore with the trainees opportunities which can occur in an infant’s daily living for a caregiver to provide emotional support for the infant in his experiencing of bodily sensations. If a caregiver caresses an infant, or rubs her check against his, or handles his bare skin with patient, tender hands, the infant learns from her muscle responses and facial expressions that his body and its sensations feel good to her too. FI the caregiver does not make unpleasant faces or remarks about thumb-sucking or the smell of urine and feces, the baby will learn that his bodily functions are not disagreeable to the adult, as they are not disagreeable to himself. A caregiver may see a two-year-old on a diaper changer finger his genitals. If she casually accepts this activity, then the baby learns that what he feels as pleasurable is not associated with adult disapproval or punishment. Caregivers who accept calmly a baby’s pleasure at his own body sensations will help a baby to grow up feeling that his own body and his body feeling are all right. Caregivers will find it much easier to socialize such an infant—that is, to teach him adult ways or more socially acceptable ways of handling body functions or needs. For example, the caregiver who accepts that her toddler enjoys walking about naked ma find it easier to convince him that a supermarket aisle is not the place for such activity, but his bedroom or the breezy sunshine and privacy of a backyard is a good place, if she has a calm acceptance of the baby’s pleasure in this and does not over-react to it.

Babies who have plenty of interesting sensory-motor experiences planned and provided for them by caregivers do not exhibit excessive self-stimulation such aas thumb-sucking or masturbation for long periods of time. Tire or shy babies may need more of such self-produced pleasurable sensations to comfort themselves or to get used to strange places or people.

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