I will never forget the first time they put my daughter in my arms and my sweet little baby looked up at me with big, wide eyes. It must have been hours of hugging and snuggling before I put her down.
In the following months, as she grew, I got a lot of unsolicited advice from people telling me to “make sure you don’t hold her too much,” and “put her down, you’ll spoil her.” But in my mind, there was no limit to snuggle time. And my instincts were correct. There are several proven benefits to hugging your baby.
Many studies show that your loving touch is essential for your baby’s developing brain. And cuddling also reduces their anxiety and helps create calmer kids. When my daughter became a toddler and began to throw tantrums, I learned the best way to get her attention was to embrace her. Frustration and yelling just fuels more frustration and yelling. Holding her close calms both of us down, and then I’m able to talk with her about why her behavior was inappropriate. This routine act of love has had lasting positive effects. It has given her a way to learn to deal with her emotions calmly and shown her healthy ways to communicate.
Research shows even more benefits for your child’s lifelong health and well-being. Several studies have related the happiness of adults to how affectionate their parents were with them when they were babies. Researchers said this was a result of oxytocin, the natural chemical released when you feel love and affection, being produced more in children with affectionate parents. Hugging and snuggling helps children grow and be healthier, too, as oxytocin increases growth and nerve hormones, giving a boost to your child’s physical development, and also strengthens their immune system.
These days, getting my toddler up in the morning can be rough. But on the days I have a few extra minutes, I wake her up and whisper, “You want to snuggle for a few minutes?” Her little head pops up, she grabs her blanket and pillow and jumps into my bed and in my arms. These are my most cherished moments. Despite knowing all these benefits to hugging my baby, the biggest benefit to me is the way it makes ME feel.