Human grooming by Daniel Laberge
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Grooming your child

Newborn hand
© Jason Pratt

Your children will thank you all their lives
for grooming them
and teaching them how to do it.

This page is divided in five sections:
Grooming your newborn baby
Grooming your child
Where are the folds on a baby's body?
Children grooming themselves
Additional theory

Grooming a human baby has not been fully tested at this point.
Go slowly, be cautious, and use your best judgment.
If the skin bleeds, stop grooming the area until it heals
and revise your technique.





Grooming your newborn baby

Newborn foot
© Scott Sherrill

Before grooming your child,
you should learn how to do it
by grooming your own skin
for several months.

Motherly love

The newborn child's first grooming sessions remain the duty and the responsibility of the mother.
For the first month or two, only the mother has the necessary closeness to perform these delicate operations.
Two tasks await her:
• Right after birth, she has to take off the protective coat of «Vernix caseosa»,
• Then, for the first years, she should groom her baby with her fingers and nails in order to remove the fetal mask and straitjacket.
These gestures will create a greater proximity between the mother and her child.
Guided by her motherly instinct and her own grooming experience, she will find out by herself when and how to execute these important assignments.

Humans are born folded

Newborn foot
© cabancreative

Folds on a baby's feet

You won't search for long before finding folds on a baby's body.
Some are clearly visible as they furrow through the immaculate skin.
But when did these folds first appear?
Some of the folding, such as the vertical folds, seems to be part of the fetus development process.
For example, during its growth, the fetus expands in two symmetrical halves with a clearly visible center line.
This means that the center fold is present from the very start of our life.
When the fetus starts moving, this creates still more folds.
Since its skin is folded so little, the fetus can do stunning facial expressions.
The folds haven't attached its flesh to the skull yet.
At around four and a half months, thumb sucking starts.
The baby is, in fact, exercising its members in order to be ready to perform after birth.
Its movements generate more folds in the skin, mostly in the neck-shoulder-arm area and in the leg-hip area.
Ironically, babies who do a good job at thumb sucking and exercising its members in order to be ready to be breast fed after birth.
Small problems during the pregnancy may produce several folds in the skin as the child grows up.
You can tell how folded a baby is at birth by evaluating how ugly it is.

Post-natal lick-grooming

A very special grooming is expected to occur right after birth.
The mother is supposed to lick her baby clean.
That's what all primate moms do.
The newborn's skin is coated with «Vernix caseosa», a waxy white substance.

«Vernix caseosa» on newborn baby
© IamNotUnique

«Vernix caseosa»

It may serve for skin protection in the womb and its lubricating properties may help the baby's exit.
It has to be removed completely.
As it is done now, the nurse, wearing rubber gloves, bathes the newborn lightly in lukewarm water or simply uses a face cloth.
The job is incomplete and unnatural for the baby, possibly cruel.
What better treatment would you want than having your mother's soft, warm tongue greet you into this world?
Making you nice and clean.
It may take one or two days to complete the task.
I'm convinced that Vernix caseosa is good-tasting.

Microbial flora

Licking the baby at birth has another major advantage.
Before birth, the child's microbial flora is virgin.
During the delivery, it takes part of the mother's imprint, but only where they touch.
This leaves some parts of the body available for foreign colonization.

Leopard grooming young
© James-Peacock

The mother's tongue can cover the whole body in detail and assure that they both have common bacteria.






Grooming your child

Newborn baby
© Prescott-Pym

Baby's first grooming sessions

The special «licking» grooming, described above, does not replace regular grooming with the fingertips and nails.
It will take adventurous and dedicated mothers to try grooming the skin of their baby.
I'm convinced that if a mother already grooms herself, she should know what to do.
The baby's skin is so tender that every move has to be performed delicately and attentively.
Don't try to achieve too much in one grooming session, you don't want to irritate the baby's skin.
Instead, try to get the child to get used to and appreciate the care you give with your fingertips and nails.

Prudence and caution

Special precautions have to be taken when grooming a newborn baby.
The bones of the skull have not yet solidified and the skin may be very sensitive.
Go gradually and cautiously.
Keep the pressure you exert one or two notches lower than when grooming yourself.
Rely on your instinct and be on the lookout for any reaction of the baby's skin and of the baby itself.

Newborn baby
© Nelson-Kwok

Be extremely attentive to any feedback from the child, but remember that you can always see a certain amount of fear and anxiety in the eyes of any primate while they are being groomed.
Go slowly, but daily.

How to groom your child

Of course, both superficial and pressure grooming techniques should be employed to groom your child's skin.
You can switch freely from one method to the other.

Superficial grooming
During your daily superficial grooming sessions, you want to gently scrape the whole surface of your baby's body with your nails, including any recess you may find.
Your goal is to remove the dead skin cells that are at the very top of the epidermis; not to dig in.

Newborn baby
© a4gpa

While performing this routine, you should only exert an extremely light pressure.
You want to rake and scrape the entire skin of the baby with swift, delicate superficial strokes.
Your moves should be so gentle that your nails barely touch the skin.
One way to keep this activity short and fun is to use as many fingers as you can to do the job.
Go with four finger strokes anywhere it is possible and perform your gestures with both hands simultaneously.
In feature rich or problem areas, slow down and groom the skin carefully with one single finger.
The kid will probably feel tickled and take this activity as an amusing, short and intimate game.

Pressure grooming
After an animated and joyous superficial grooming session, the mood may change when you switch to pressure grooming strokes.
Pressure grooming takes longer to accomplish and may be a bit annoying at times.
Moreover, you quite possibly may hurt the child at some occasions, because of your inexperience and of the difficulty of grooming someone else.

Orangutan grooming child
© Eric-Kilby

Flattening your child's skin

Repeatedly pressing on the flesh, while putting very little pressure on your fingertip, doesn't hurt.
Each pressure stroke usually lasts between two and five seconds and they are applied close to one another.

Nail pecking skin

Simply apply a slight pressure for two to five seconds.
Move your finger a bit and repeat.

In the long run, this simple gesture will unfold and completely free the skin.
You want to slowly accustom your baby to feeling your finger gently pressing on her or his skin.

Mapping your child's folds

• Place the flat of your fingertip anywhere on your child's skin and apply a slight pressure for two to five seconds.
• As you cover the child's skin with these pressure strokes, you will discover hardened elements inside the baby's flesh, those are folds.
• You want to flatten them, but you're in no rush, you have months in front of you.
• Make a mental note of every imperfection or hardness you encounter and appreciate its size and form in order to create a map of all the folds on your child's body.

Unfolding the baby's skin

Any skin structure has its weak spots and you can find them:
Visually; by figuring out where the folds are located (unreliable),
By touch; using your finger to determine the shape and disposition of the hardened elements (more reliable).
The most structurally unstable locations are usually situated:
• At the top of the mounds and bulges or,
• At the bottom of the pits and grooves that you encounter.
Working on bumps is easier so, when you find one:
• Look for its center or its highest point,
Gently crush it with an extended (10 to 30 second) pressure stroke.
Don't do too much in one day. You'll rework that spot tomorrow. Move your finger elsewhere and repeat the procedure

Newborn baby
© Michelle-Brea





Where are the folds on a baby's body?

Fetal impressions

For the first few hours or days of its life, the newborn's skin is still wet and highly hydrated.
It takes about three days for the baby to dry out.
Since human babies are left ungroomed, their folds become engraved for life.
They form what I call the «fetal mask», on the face, and the «fetal straitjacket», on the rest of the body.

Newborn baby
© Sander-van-der-Wel

The fetal mask

Those are the facial folds of childhood, dried out and hardened, that are now etched-in, marked and visible on the face of a grown-up person.
When you look at an adult face, you can observe the fetal mask; a baby's face, beneath the mature features.
It's as if they had two superposed faces; a young and an old one.
Here are basic fetal mask characteristics:
• The dried out baby's chin has moved up and has become a plate at the bottom front of the chin.
• A horizontal fold in the middle of the chin.
• Prominence of the sucking folds going down the sides of the nose to the sides of the mouth and down each side of the chin.
• The two parallel folds that go between the nose and the upper lip.
• The wings of the nose.
• The pockets below and around the eyes.
• Curves in the hairline.
• ...

Newborn baby
© c-r-avery

The fetal straitjacket

Those are the circular folds from birth engraved on the body.
You can see part of them; they are the numerous large folds located around every articulation on your body.
Plastic dolls often have articulated members with visible joints. Fetal straitjacket folds are in similar positions, but they also extend between them.

Barbie doll
© Hegemony77

The articulations on this doll are located in similar positions
to the folds of the fetal straitjacket.
They appear early, but tighten up all the life of an individual.
Here, waist and neck joints are missing

It is important to understand that the fetal straitjacket folds were created when the fetus was still very small, months before birth.
When the body grows, the folds remain and keep their size as they strangle the articulation more and more.

Baby's wrist
© shira--gal

Take your wrist for example, the same folds you see today started out when its circumference was only a tiny fraction of what it is now.
Your growth tightens the straitjacket deeper and deeper into your skin.
Hurting more and more.





Children grooming themselves

And the baby starts grooming

Be on the lookout for the first signs that your child is self-grooming.
I would expect this event to happen sooner rather than later.
Of course, this is 100% normal.
However, you have to monitor and observe the baby's moves to see if it is done properly.
There is a danger that the child may develop unhealthy habits such as scratching or auto-mutilation.
Your guidance is necessary if you want a good transition from «being groomed» to «grooming oneself».

Teaching grooming

Though grooming is an instinct, we all know it can be lost.
Parents grooming their child represent the normal transmission method from one generation to another.
Captive primates do not groom right if removed from their mothers.
I don't know at what age a baby should take over grooming chores from the parents.
One thing is sure, a well groomed kid will basically know how to do it instinctively, but your teaching, checking and support seem essential.

Chimpanzee grooming young
© Michael-Coghlan

Teaching grooming isn't very complicated, you essentially want to:
• Observe and inspect your baby's moves,
• Coach and guide the child,
• Show new techniques.
Your task depends greatly on how your baby behaves, so you can't plan it.
This is another occasion for closeness and bond with your child.

Taming nervous habits

Childhood is a time when it is easy to develop bad habits and nervous behaviors.
I remember that, as a child, I would suck my thumb, bite my nails, press my nails forcibly onto the side of my fingers, ...
My parents had to patiently convince me and guide me to help me cease those bad habits.
Stopping biting my nails, at that age, was as difficult as quitting smoking later in life.
Scolding isn't the right attitude; reasoning, perseverance and complicity get much better results.
If you see that your child's actions are nervously, rather than logically, motivated, you must intervene.
Correct the shortcomings and flaws in the baby's grooming technique by performing the same moves in a correct manner on her or him.
Make sure you explain and justify why your behavior is preferable.





Additional theory

Newborn baby
© Adam-Baker

Neoteny and grooming

Neoteny is the faculty, in an animal species, to conserve juvenile traits into adulthood.
Grooming does exactly that, but it conveys new perspectives;
• In grooming, neoteny is organized into a complete system which includes the tools (nails) and the sensations, coming from the skin, needed to get the job done.
• It shows that the animals themselves have their role to play in this process. They are responsible, to a great extent, for their aging or rejuvenating.

Racial features

Newborn baby
© Christine-Szeto

I know that what I'm writing here is highly controversial and unproven.
I theorize that most facial features that are considered as racial are simply due to a lack of grooming.
They originate from small differences in the shape of the skull, but are magnified by the folding.
Here are some examples:
• Some racial types have a flattened nose. Well, there is no reason for a groomed nose to be flat. You have to groom the horizontal folds that pass at center nose, and start right after birth.
• Asian eyes have slanted corners, and grooming the folds at the extremity of the eyes after birth (or later) would eliminate this racial feature.
I'm convinced that we are much more similar than we thought we were.


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