Are you or your child on a (touch) starvation diet?

By Dr. Darcia Narvaez

We have come to think of ourselves and our children more like machines than living creatures—keep the tank full, keep the body clean and shiny, rest it overnight, get it back to work in the morning. Is this a good life?

Are you or your child on a (touch) starvation diet?

As mammals, our heritage is to thrive in social situations. But today in the USA we spend more time alone or with the empty social calories of television and iPod videos than enjoying one another face to face, like our ancestors did. Why?

Here is a hypothesis: many adults spend time the way they did as children. As children many of us spent a great deal of time in carriers or strollers or carseats (rather than being held or carried). So we don't mind long commutes sitting alone in similar circumstances. We were put in front of the television as a babysitter (rather than passed around and cherished by an extended family). So we don't mind long hours in front of the computer. In fact, we've lost some of our ability to get along with people and have an easier time getting along with machines—at least they tend to respond instantaneously to our needs without much coaxing or interaction. (Hmm, people in service jobs do the same thing. They take our orders and money and hand over the goods. Human becomes machine.)

So what, you say? As long as I have a job, get my work done, get the paycheck and can relax a bit in front of the TV, what more can I ask for?

How about some joy? Real, natural joy. Where does it come from?

Here is one source: affectionate touch. 

There was a study some years ago that looked at couples for an hour in cafes in four places: England, France, USA and Puerto Rico. Researchers counted how many times (every 20 seconds) the couple touched each other. As I recall, the British touched not at all, the Americans touched a handful of times, the French about 50 times and the Puerto Ricans about 180 times. This made perfect sense to me, being Puerto Rican. When my husband and I go out to a restaurant, I have to be seated close enough to be able to touch him frequently if not constantly. Latin Americans touch a lot and some reports indicate that Caribbean Latin Americans are among the happiest people in the world.

Human ancestors, like most other social mammals, spent a great deal of time in close proximity. Lots of cuddling, sleeping in the same space touching. Lots of socializing, including singing and laughing (just check out the deep descriptive reports put out by anthropologists who have lived with foraging hunter gatherers).

positive affection between parents and children

What are the positives of affectionate touch? Here are a few:

  • Touch boosts immunity, whether young or old.
  • Young children's emotions and physiological systems are regulated and set up by caregiver touch.
  • People who get massages have more a greater amount of "well-being" chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin in their bodies.
  • Affectionate touch is calming.

Of course, if you grew up with little affectionate touch, it may be hard to want it or accept it now. When I was a child, my family and I would regularly spend a year in a Latin country, returning to Minnesota in between as home base.  I remember coming back from a year in Pamplona, Spain, for ninth grade. On the first day of school at the end of lunch, I remember grabbing my (Scandinavian-heritaged) friend's arm to go back to class. I still remember the look on her face as she squirmed away and demanded to know what I was doing. Woops, I forgot to code switch for the cooler, less affectionate context.

Mariana Caplan, in her book, Untouched, describes how she found it more pleasant to live outside the USA in places where people were more affectionate and trusting. She says:

"The seeming inconveniences of seven people living in one room, or sleeping in a hammock and taking cold showers out of a bucket, were negligible compared to what it felt like to live in an environment of intimacy, communion, love, and an overall sense of well being" (p. xx).

I agree with her that there is a very different feeling in more collectivist cultures, such as those in Latin America. Social life feels more like the interaction of marshmallows—soft, full, sweet, and sticky, in contrast to being in mainstream US culture which feels more like the interaction of ping pong balls—every one is going about their own business in a slick, quick and flat sort of way, with little sense of connection to others.

What's wrong with having an untouching, unaffectionate culture? Starvation. Some decades ago, James Prescott of National Institute of Child Health and Human Development postulated that as a result of little touch many Americans suffer from Somatosensory Affectional Deprivation. Brain systems (e.g., cerebellum) important for social pleasures were insufficiently developed during early childhood due to a lack of touch, making it hard to enjoy positive touch as an adult. The way children are raised is who they become.

What do people do when they are starving for pleasure? Take nourishment from whatever they can find—alcohol, drugs, junk food, electronic media—all of which when misused can be harmful to self and/or others. But humans need pleasure in some fashion—our brains are pleasure-driven.

Okay, so what are some good ways to get affectionate touch?

AS A PARENT:

  • Make sure your children get a lot of positive touch. Hugs, cuddles, gentle strokes.
  • Avoid negative touch (pinch, slap, hit) because it harms the child (and you) in so many ways, including brain development, moral development and trust in you.
  • Don't isolate babies. Keep them on your body as much as possible. There are good, safe ways to sleep with babies in this era of soft mattresses and bed covers.
  • Let your child sit on your lap when they want to, no matter what the age. Oxytocin, the calming "cuddle drug," rises after a half hour or so.
  • Gentle, firm-touch massage for babies and all ages.

FOR YOURSELF THROUGHOUT LIFE: 

  • Learn to sit close with loved ones for relaxation.
  • One of the best times of the day for me is when my husband and I sit close together on a couch to "huggle" (cuddle and snuggle).
  • Several times a day, my husband and I put our foreheads together, noses touching. Forehead to forehead with deep breathing for several minutes—very relaxing! We found out recently that New Zealand Maori use this as a greeting (called hongi).
  • Get a dog and be affectionate.
  • Give and get massages (e.g., shoulders, back, feet, face). Massage decreases the stress hormone, cortisol, and boosts immunity.

For more scholarly information about the effects of touch, see the research of the researchers presenting at the symposium, Human Nature and Early Experience whose website will include videos after the event. Also see James Prescott's work online.


Related Reading by Dr. Narvaez at Peaceful Parenting: 

An 'On Demand' Life and the Basic Needs of Babies

Where Are All the Happy Babies?

The Dangers of Crying It Out

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies

5 Things NOT to Do to Babies

12 Ways to Nurture Babies at Conception, Birth, and Beyond

Are you treating your child like a prisoner?

Are you or your child on a touch starvation diet?

Conspiracy Thinking: Understanding Attachment and Its Consequences

Psychology Today: Circumcision Series

Learn More from Narvaez:

The Evolved Nest Institute

Kindred Media

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

💜 Peaceful Parenting Community

💙 Peaceful Parenting on Facebook

💗 Peaceful Parenting on Telegram

Babies Sleep Best Near a Loved One's Chest -Danelle Day


Pikler Furniture: Innovations In The World Of Children's Fittings


Amy Pikler was convinced that every child could, and should, learn the basic types of movements from the inside on their own, their specific types of activities, in their own time. She saw that children do not need any encouragement or exceptional support for this, but that loving, attentive supervision and guidance from adults and a safe and child-friendly environment are prerequisites for the healthy development and maturation of the child's personality.

Play equipment according to Emmy Pikler: whether it's climbing arches, bouncing boards, a climbing triangle, a bench, or Pikler's maze and a crawling box: every play equipment in Emmy Pikler's understanding is designed in terms of construction and size, so even small kids can use it on their own and explore.


The game material, and the entire game environment, are adjusted so that additional interventions and help from adults are practically unnecessary. In the case of little kids, this can also be done, for example, by limiting the play area with a playing net. Moreover, wood is used almost exclusively as a material for all pikler furniture — it is stable and durable and gives children a unique tactile sensation.

Best furniture for games

Here is a list of the best Pikler furniture:


  • The Pikler triangle is the perfect solution for developing motor skills in babies from around ten months of age, and is also known as the so-called triangle stand. With the Pikler triangle, even young children can develop their motor skills according to their age — without parental intervention. The triangle is used for climbing and playing.


  • The Pikler arch is an arch that is excellent for climbing, gymnastics, and games. Most climbing arches can be used shortly after birth. It is also suitable for a child's first attempts to stand up. It is accessible in various shapes, sizes, and variations, so kids can swing or roll with it, depending on the model.


  • A balance board is a particular type of arch. For this, only a unique design is characteristic. The rainbow swing has multi-colored panels in rainbow colors.

Pikler's Philosophy

The kid's room plays a central role in Amy Pikler's pedagogy. This ambiance educates kids. It should be designed in such a way that, on the one hand, parents or educators should not need to constantly intervene to protect a child from a risky situation, or even free him from it. The prepared space must be adapted to a child's abilities, i.e., it must also be constantly changing as the child's abilities develop.






What Happens if a Family Member Contests a Will


When a family member dies, many people tend to be unprepared.  Beyond the emotional shock we all have to face – whether the death was expected or not – there are so many practical things that, at the time, represent a difficult learning curve. 

One of the most obvious examples of this is dealing with the will. Although this scenario is certainly preferable to attempting to deal with a loved one’s estate in the absence of a will, there are plenty of instances in which the will itself can cause its own issues. 

One such issue is when the will is contested – this often arises when one or more family members feel that the document is not in accordance with the wishes or promises made by the testator prior to their death. With the help of a specialist contesting a will solicitors, it may be possible to pursue a different outcome to the one stipulated within the will.

This is a subject very few of us have any detailed knowledge on but, if it is happening within your family, you need to prepare yourself for a few potential outcomes. 


The estate could be distributed differently to what is in the will 


It can sometimes be difficult to prove that the contents of a will is not valid but it is by no means impossible. There may perhaps be arguments for example, that the testator did not have mental capacity, was unduly influenced by someone to make the will on different terms than they would otherwise have done, and/or they did not understand or approve it.  

In these circumstances, the testator’s estate may well be redistributed among family members according to a previous version of the testator’s will. Alternatively, it will be made subject to the rules of intestacy, and treated as though no will exists.  

It may be that a relation or someone dependant on the testator was not adequately provided for in the will or omitted entirely and in these circumstances they may be able to make a claim for financial provision.  

Whatever their grounds for contesting the will, if it presents compelling evidence to the court, the estate may be distributed in a way that differs from the terms in the testator’s will.


The estate could incur significant legal costs


Litigation is expensive. Under a no win no fee agreement, one of the most popular methods of funding for these sorts of cases, fees tend to only be payable if the party making the claim is successful. If there is a dispute with the beneficiaries it can mean that the legal fees ultimately reduce the sums the beneficiaries receive.  


There could be a relationship breakdown in the family at what is already an extremely sad and distressing time


Beyond the more pragmatic elements of contesting a will, there is a huge risk of creating a significant rift within the family.

Unfortunately, the process of contesting a will coincides with a time when emotions are running high. Family members who need to progress through the usual grieving process can begin to feel trapped in one of the most unpleasant stages of mourning, and this can exacerbate any disagreements over the wishes put forth in the deceased’s will.

Therefore, it is always advisable to seek advice from a solicitor at an early stage. 



The Perfect Bath


There is a lot of confusion today about what constitutes the most soothing, most healing, bath for those with inflammation, redness, irritation, yeast, etc. This is the perfect bath for such situations -- kids as well as for adults who face the same, or simply want a natural, healing detox bath. 🌊 Reduce quantities of each item for skin baths (or baby sized baths). Skip the soaps for youngsters (as this disrupts pH and microflora) and stick with epsom salt and a little boron or food grade DE.

More on proper intact care: http://www.DrMomma.org/2009/06/how-to-care-for-intact-penis-protect.html

Some of our favorites on Amazon:

• Epsom salt (plain, no dyes, perfumes, or oils): https://amzn.to/2QfwTJq
• Boron (Borax or other brands): https://amzn.to/2Q87B02
• Calmoseptine: https://amzn.to/2Yj9f3t
• Food grade DE: https://amzn.to/2Q99jhL


Your Happy Baby in a Natural Habitat: Carry Mammals

Such a beautiful and perfect explanation. 💕 Humans are carry mammals, and babies instinctively need to be cared for as such, for their baseline level of well-being and development. 

Images via @jojofordillustration









10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies


Have you noticed all the stressed babies? Maybe 1 in 30 I see has glowing eyes, which I take as a sign of thriving. What's up? Perhaps ignorance about babies and their needs. Here are 10 things to know.

1. Babies are social mammals with social mammalian needs. Social mammals emerged more than 30 million years ago with intensive parenting(a developmental nest or niche). This is one of the many (extra-genetic) things that evolved other than genes. This developmental nest matches up with the maturational schedule and thus is required for an individual to develop optimally. Intensive parenting practices for babies include years of breastfeeding to develop brain and body systems, nearly constant touch and physical presence of caregivers, responsiveness to needs preventing distress, free play with multi-aged playmates, and soothing perinatal experiences. Each of these has significant effects on physical health.

2. Human babies are born "half-baked" and require an external womb. Humans are born way early compared to other animals: nine months early in terms of mobility and 18 months early in terms of bone development and foraging capacities. Full-term babies have 25% of adult brain volume and most of it grows in the first five years. Thus, the human nest for its young evolved to be even more intense than for other social mammals because of the underdeveloped newborn, lasting for three to five years. Humans also added to the list of expected care a village of positive social support for both mother and baby. (Actually, human brain development lasts into the third decade of life, suggesting that social support and mentoring continue at least that long.)

3. If adults mess up on the post-birth “baking,” long-term problems can result. Each of the caregiving practices mentioned above has longterm effects on the physical health but also the social health of the individual. For example, distressing babies regularly or intensively (by not giving them what they need) undermines self-regulatory systems. This is common knowledge in other cultures and was so in our past. In Spanish, there is a term used for adolescents and adults who misbehave: malcriado (misraised).

4. Babies thrive on affectionate love. When babies receive food and diaper changes and little else, they die. If they receive partial attention and stay alive, it is still not enough—they won’t reach their full potential. Urie Bronfenbrenner, who emphasized the multiple systems of support that foster optimal development, said that babies do best when at least one person is crazy about them. Others have noted that children grow best with three affectionate, consistent caregivers. In fact, babies expect more than mom and dad for loving care. Babies are ready for a community of close, responsive caregivers that includes mother nearby.

5. Babies’ right hemisphere of the brain is developing rapidly in the first three years. The right hemisphere develops in response to face-to-face social experience, with extended shared eye gaze. The right hemisphere governs several self-regulatory systems. If babies are placed in front of screens, ignored or isolated, they are missing critical experiences.

6. Babies expect to play and move. Babies expect to be “in arms” or on the body of the caregiver most of the time. Skin-to-skin contact is a calming influence. After learning this one of my students when at a family gathering took a crying baby and held it to his neck, which calmed it down. Babies expect companionship not isolation or intrusion. They expect to be in the middle of community social life. They are ready to play from birth. Play is a primary method for learning self-control and social skills. Companionship care—friendship, mutual responsiveness, and playfulness—builds social and practical intelligence. Babies and caregivers share intersubjective states, building the child’s capacities for the interpersonal “dances” that fill social life.

7. Babies have built-in warning systems. If they are not getting what they need, babies let you know. It is best, as most cultures have long known, to respond to a baby’s grimace or gesture and not to wait till crying occurs. Young babies have difficulty stopping crying once it starts. The best advice for baby care is to sensitively follow the baby, not the experts.

8. Babies lock their experiences into procedural memory vaults that will be inaccessible but apparent in later behavior and attitudes. Babies can be toxically stressed from neglecting the list of needs above. They won’t forget. It will undermine their trust of others, their health, and social wellbeing, and lead to self-centered morality which can do much destruction to the world.

9. Culture does not erase the evolved needs babies have. Babies cannot retract their mammalian needs. Yet, some adult cultures advocate violating evolved baby needs as if they do not matter and despite the protests of the baby. Everyday violations include baby isolation like sleeping alone, “crying it out” sleep training, infant formula, or baby videos and flashcards.* When violations occur regularly, at critical time periods or are intense, they undermine optimal development. These violations are encoded in the baby’s body as the optimal development of systems is undermined (e.g., immunity, neurotransmitters, endocrine systems like oxytocin). Surprisingly, some developmental psychologists think it fine to violate these needs** in order for the child to fit into the culture.

The rationalization of “culture over biology” reflects a lack of understanding not only of human nature but of optimal development. This has occurred in laboratories with other animals whose natures were misunderstood. For example, Harry Harlow, known for his experiments with monkeys and “mother love,” at first did not realize he was raising abnormal monkeys when he isolated them in cages. Similarly, at least one of the aggressive rat strains used in lab studies today was first created when scientists isolated offspring after birth, again not realizing the abnormality of isolation. Note how the cultural assumptions of the scientists created the abnormal animals. So it matters what cultural assumptions you have.

The culture-over-biology view may be doing the same thing with human beings. By not understanding babies and their needs, we are creating species-atypical human beings. We can only know this to be the case in light of knowledge about human beings who develop under evolved conditions (the "developmental nest" described in point 1): typically, small-band hunter-gatherers. They are wiser, more perceptive and virtuous than we humans in the U.S. today (see note below).

Thus, the final point:

10. Experiences that consistently violate evolution undermine human nature. When species-atypical childrearing occurs, we end up with people whose health and sociality are compromised (which we can see all over the USA today with epidemics of depressionanxiety, high suicide and drug use rates***). Such mis-raised creatures might do all right on achievement tests or IQ measures, but they may also be dangerous reptiles whose world revolves around themselves. A lot of smart reptiles (“snakes in suits”) on Wall Street and elsewhere have been running the country into the ground.

What to do?

  1. Inform others about the needs of babies.
  2. Be aware of the needs of babies around you and interact sensitively with the babies you encounter.
  3. Support parents to be sensitive to the needs of their babies. This will also require many more institutional and social supports for families with children, including extensive parental leave which other developed nations provide. It's an uphill battle right now but raising awareness is the first step.
  4. Read and learn from books that convey the evolved principles of caregiving.

*Note that sometimes violations (e.g., formula, isolation) are required under emergency conditions that are matters of life and death. Also note: In a way, U.S. culture forces parents into these violations because there is no extended family or community support to help provide for all the many needs of a baby.

**Of course they don’t think it’s a violation because they don’t take the set of mammalian needs seriously.

***In the U.S., everyone under 50 has numerous health disadvantages compared to citizens in 16 other developed nations (National Research Council, 2013).

Note: Of course, every human community is not perfect but when you provide young children with their basic needs, they are less aggressive and self-centered. They are less preoccupied with what they want because they got all they wanted when they needed it in early life. The baby nest described above makes for a smart, healthy, well-functioning body and brain, with high emotional intelligence and self-control. They are more socially skilled and empathic toward others. All this makes getting along with others so much easier. All this will have to be explained more thoroughly in another post, citing the anthropology research that shows what people in small-band hunter-gatherer communities are like.


Related Reading by Dr. Narvaez at Peaceful Parenting: 

An 'On Demand' Life and the Basic Needs of Babies

Where Are All the Happy Babies?

The Dangers of Crying It Out

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Babies

5 Things NOT to Do to Babies

12 Ways to Nurture Babies at Conception, Birth, and Beyond

Are you treating your child like a prisoner?

Are you or your child on a touch starvation diet?

Conspiracy Thinking: Understanding Attachment and Its Consequences

Psychology Today: Circumcision Series

Learn More from Narvaez:

The Evolved Nest Institute

Kindred Media

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom

💜 Peaceful Parenting Community

💙 Peaceful Parenting on Facebook

💗 Peaceful Parenting on Telegram

Research everything!



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