From the first time a mom meets her baby, it’s a natural instinct to want to cuddle and protect her son or daughter. Beyond simply making both mother and child feel good, hugging has tons of benefits for both. Here are 7 of the best reasons to hug your little one!
1. Improve Baby’s Emotional Health
According to a study by a pair of pediatrics researchers, the more a mother holds and carries her baby, the less the baby will cry. The study found that caregivers in Africa often hold infants close for much of the day and respond more quickly to an infant’s cry than their counterparts in Western societies. A baby’s cry is a survival mechanism, since a mother’s instinct is typically to go to her child at any sign of distress. Comforting your little one with a soothing hug can help baby develop a secure attachment to you, which will contribute to a foundation of emotional health for life.
2. Comfy temperature
While you’re carrying your baby in your womb, your body and the placenta provide warmth and temperature regulation. Once your child is born, she’s placed into your arms, most likely directly onto your chest for skin-to-skin contact. Not only does this help fulfill emotional needs, it also helps maintain your baby’s optimal body temperature. Many baby experts and researchers agree that even after you’re home from the hospital, frequent skin-to-skin embraces (hugs!) with baby can have ongoing benefits, including regulating her body temperature better than any other method.
3. Mental health boost
After delivery, it’s not uncommon to experience fluctuations in hormones and emotions that can make that season feel like a roller coaster. Did you know that physical contact with your newborn can help with the transition into parenthood? When you’re more physically connected to your baby, it helps form an unbreakable bond that can provide a positive foundation and give you confidence as a caregiver. It’s a wonderful, happiness-inducing benefit of sharing a hug with your baby!
4. Breastfeeding success
Anyone who’s been around an infant knows: they explore by putting things in their mouths! In fact, if you stroke your baby’s cheek, you’ll notice that he will instinctively turn toward that touch, most likely with his mouth open. It’s an ingrained physiological response that helps a baby find his mother’s nipple. Newborns have another instinct, called the breast crawl. When the baby’s chin connects with the mom’s breast, he will move his head and body toward her breast and the nipple and begin to feed. Skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby can help accelerate him learning the breast crawl naturally.
5. Boost milk production
One of the miracles of the reproductive process is that mamas can produce the milk necessary to sustain their babies through the first part of their lives. In fact, the scent of their mother’s milk is one of the reasons baby prefer their moms over everyone else (they know where their milk comes from!). Even before milk comes out, moms produce colostrum, a pre-milk nutrient packed with immune-building bioactive compounds. When newborns suckle, they help draw out the colostrum, which helps kick milk production into high gear. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that immediately after birth a baby be placed naked on the mother’s bare chest until breastfeeding has commenced. It helps set you and your little one up for breastfeeding success!
6. Sound sleep
Sleep – how much you’re getting or not getting – is sure to be a hot-button issue if you have a newborn in your house. Babies thrive on snuggles, cuddles and hugs, and these gentle, loving embraces can help your little one feel safe and secure. When you’re creating a nighttime or nap routine, you may choose to incorporate hugging and holding him, direct skin-to-skin contact or a soothing infant massage to help pave the way to more regulated sleep.
7. Untold benefits
Our bodies are amazing things, and that is perhaps never more evident than through the miracle of pregnancy and birth. After all, as a mother, you grew a human inside of you! While science and conventional wisdom tells us of a host of known benefits of hugs and healthy physical touch, there’s so much we don’t know and can’t fully explain. For example, in 2010 Australian mom Kate Ogg got the devastating news that her premature baby boy died after efforts to resuscitate him failed. Nurses placed him across Kate’s chest and as she held him, he began to move. In Australia, this kind of skin-to-skin embrace is called “kangaroo care” because it mimics the hug a baby kangaroo receives from its mother’s pouch. Doctors watched in disbelief as the baby, who had been born at a very premature 27 weeks and declared deceased minutes before, began to move and even accepted a dab of breast milk from his mom’s finger. The Today Show reported this incredible story five months later when Kate’s baby Jamie was happy, healthy and thriving alongside his twin sister, Emily in Sydney, Australia. For this family down under, the power of a mother’s hug helped save a baby’s life and had a profound impact on them all.