Our stories all begin as new humans.
“To the extent that caregivers recognize, honor, and respect their children’s bodily experiences, the child will develop more accurate interoception” (Oldroyd et al., 2019, p. 10).
In time, I will share with you all the many ways interoception underlies function. To lay the foundation for the importance of interoception in our development, I want to begin where all human sensory experience begins – the earliest stages of our lives.
There is plenty of literature cataloging the sensory experience of the fetus… from taste buds emerging at 20 weeks gestation to a functional auditory system at 24weeks, our sensory life begins before we exit our mother’s wombs.
Once a child is born, they are bombarded with new sensory experiences. Typically, we all consider the infants response to external or exteroceptive sensation (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch). We swaddle and nurse and lower the lights while we play soft music. And yet implicitly we recognize the importance of the new baby’s internal sensation or interoception to inform the infant’s regulation and arousal. We question and learn which cry is hunger and which is fatigue yet we don’t explicitly discuss the internal sensory information that is continuously monitoring the infant’s bodily functions.
“Because young infants have limited resources, they cannot use action to collect evidence about the causes of their own interoceptive experiences. Instead, infants rely on caregivers’ reactions to their behaviors to inform conceptualizations of interoceptive states. For example, when a young infant becomes fussy they may not understand the source of their own discomfort. It is only when a caregiver provides the child with a nipple and the act of eating begins to alleviate the infant’s discomfort, does the infant start to learn about the feeling of hunger” (Oldroyd et al., 2019, p. 3)
Interestingly, the responsiveness of the caregiver which provides that hungry infant with a nipple or that tired infant with rocking to ease them into sleep lays not only the foundation for the development of interoceptive awareness but also informs that infant’s attachment style. If that interests you, click the link below to read a fascinating new article that links interoception to attachment processes.
Reference: Oldroyd, K., Pasupathi, M., & Wainryb, C. (2019). Social Antecedents to the Development of Interoception: Attachment Related Processes Are Associated With Interoception. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 712. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00712