Why Doctors Discourage Tickling Babies: Understanding Your Child’s Developmental Needs

Experts warn that tickling a newborn can be harmful as it can cause hiccups and breathing difficulties. Gynaecologist and fetal medicine expert Dr Deepthi Jammi debunked the myths that tickling causes stuttering or makes a baby speak early. Tickling can also cause pain, discomfort, trauma, and anxiety in babies, and excessive tickling can even result in death from asphyxia, brain aneurysms, or stress-related injuries. Dr Jagdish Kathwate, consultant neonatologist and pediatrician, advised against tickling, as it impacts the child’s body in many ways and can lead to chest and stomach pain that requires immediate medical attention. Dr (Major) Manish Mannan concurred and advised parents to avoid tickling the baby if they are unable to find out whether it is pleasant for them.

As seen in the coverage by a recent article on The Indian Express, tickling a baby is a strict no-no. While many people believe that tickling is a harmless way to play with a newborn and make them laugh, experts warn that it could be extremely dangerous for the child.

Gynaecologist and fetal medicine expert Dr Deepthi Jammi took to Instagram to share that one should not tickle a baby as it is harmful for the child, while debunking a few myths related to tickling a newborn. Negating the claim that tickling causes stuttering in babies, Dr Jammi said there is no connection between the two. Similarly, on claims that tickling makes a baby speak early, Dr Jammi said that it is also false.

Dr Jammi said that when a baby is tickled, it starts to laugh out uncontrollably which makes the chest and stomach muscles contract and relax. This movement can cause hiccups in a baby and the tot may even gasp for air. Agreeing with this, Dr Jagdish Kathwate, consultant neonatologist and pediatrician, Motherhood Hospital, Pune, said tickling is a strict no-no.

“Tickling impacts the child’s body in many ways. If the child is tickled too forcefully or even in many sensitive areas, such as the neck or groin, it can cause pain, discomfort and even trauma. The child will be uncomfortable. Moreover, the baby is helpless and will be unable to express whether he/she likes or dislikes it. Excessive tickling can also cause chest and stomach pain, which will require immediate medical attention. Shockingly, the giggle during tickling is involuntary and can induce breathing difficulties,” said Dr Kathwate.

So, tickling can do more harm than good. “Excessive tickling can also lead to anxiety in children. Not only this, but tickling can even cause death from asphyxia, brain aneurysms or other stress-related injuries when done constantly. It is better to avoid tickling the baby to make sure that there are no problems due to it,” said Dr Kathwate.

Dr (Major) Manish Mannan, HOD, pediatrics and neonatology, Mother and Child Unit, Paras Health, Gurugram, concurred. “Occasional stimulus may be pleasant to babies but their parents must always remember tickling should never be against the wishes of the baby, and if you are unable to find out, avoid it. There are many other ways to play with a newborn and make them laugh that are completely safe and harmless.”

In essence, it is important to remember that newborns are fragile and need to be handled with care. While it may seem like tickling is a fun and harmless way to interact with a baby, it can actually cause harm and discomfort. As Dr Kathwate advises, it is better to avoid tickling altogether and find other ways to play with a newborn that are safe and enjoyable for both the baby and the caregiver