Parents criticised for video of baby being tickled

The family at the centre of Tickle-gate.
The family at the centre of Tickle-gate. Photo: Facebook

A popular blogger has been accused of "torturing" her baby after sharing a clip of her little one being tickled by her father.

Yep - you read that correctly.

Audrey Roloff, posted the sweet video of her baby daughter Ember and her husband, Jeremy, along with the caption: "These two are my favourite". And while many of the first-time mum's 200,000 plus followers commented on how adorable the pair are and how wonderful the noise of baby giggles is, the post also attracted backlash - for a very odd reason.

 
According to several of her followers, tickling also causes stuttering ...
 
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It might sound ridiculous but - as it turns out - it's quite a pervasive myth and one regularly discussed in forums around the world. Is there any truth to it, however, or is it simply an old wives tale?
As you probably guessed, it's most certainly the latter.
Pediatrician Dr Laura Jana told Babble that the link between tickling and stuttering is a myth. "While there are several theories that attempt to explain the cause of developmental stuttering (also sometimes referred to as "stammering"), the true cause is still unknown," she said. "Developmental stuttering simply describes a problem with speech fluency that typically becomes noticeable between the ages of 2 and 4, is more common in boys than girls, and has a tendency to run in families and twins - suggesting that genetics (rather than tickling) is likely to play a significant role."
Concerns around stuttering aside, is there anything wrong with tickling your bub?
Psychologist Dr Capsar Addyman heads up the Baby Laughter Project, where his research focus is giggling babies. As part of this research, Dr Addyman has noted that tickling is the most reliable way to elicit a bub's giggles, followed by peek-a-boo.
So what does he think about tickling babies? For Dr Addyman it comes down to the context being non-threatening for bub.
"The sensation itself isn't exactly pleasant, the tickle is still something we will squirm away from," he writes on his site. "But the overall situation it happens in can be pleasant ... in the context of a game with someone we like." And while babies may not be able to get away easily if they're not enjoying being tickled, Dr Addyman believes we shouldn't worry about bubs being completely "helpless" either.

"From the moment they are born, babies are very good at communicating what they do and don't like," he writes. "If they are crying there is probably something wrong. If they are smiling or laughing then they are probably having fun."

Dr Addyman advises parents to simply be responsive to signals they're getting from their little one when they're tickling tiny toes.

"The world is a confusing place if you are a baby but if we respond intelligently and consistently to them then they will feel secure and can flourish ... " he says.  "Tickling can be a great game to play with a baby. I think that most babies, most of the time will really enjoy it. If they don't they have ways of letting you know. It is always important to pay attention to what the baby is communicating to you and respond in an appropriate way."