Touch during pregnancy

At around eight weeks in uterus, unborn babies develop the sense of touch. This is the first experience of communication that the infant acquires. By 32 weeks the whole of the unborn baby's body is sensitive to touch. The baby will respond to the mother rubbing her tummy by kicking or moving about in the womb.

Rice (1975)[1] demonstrated that infants need touch in order to develop. Rice separated 30 premature infants into two control groups. One group were massaged over their whole body for 15 minutes, four times a day while the control group received normal hospital care. The infants who were massaged were stronger, more resilient and had better motor control by four months old. They were also keener to communicate and interact with their care giver.

Infant massage can provide a host of positive influences on an infant’s development from birth. It can also strengthen attachments and communication between carer giver and infant. In his study, Rice noted,

'Infants quieted, smiled, established eye contact and vocalized. Mothers observed this behaviour with interest and pleasure, relating their belief that the 'baby likes being stroked and held by me.'' (Rice, 1975)







These skills, recognised above, are fundamental to the development of speech, language and communication skills.

Interacting through touch right from the start of pregnancy allows mothers and babies time to start the process of attachment, bonding and communication with one another. As the infant grows and is born both mother and infant can continue to interact and communicate. This gives the baby the best start in life.

[1] Rice R (1975) in McClure V, (2007) Infant massage, A handbook for loving parents, British Souvenir Press LTD, London, UK

You may also be interested in

  • External Resource

    Communication Support Needs: A Review of the Literature

    A review of existing literature on the needs and experiences of people with communication support needs and highlights the implications these have for service provision.

    • When was this published? 1/9/2012
  • External Resource

    Literacy Trust

    The National Literacy Trust campaigns to reduce the number of illiterate adults in the UK.

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010