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  4. Why is Hugging Your Little One So Important?

Why is hugging your little one so important?

The power of a cuddle goes way beyond those precious warm moments with your child.

Plunket National Clinical Advisor Karen Magrath claims you should never underestimate the value of simply being close with your children. In an interview with Radio Live New Zealand, Karen explained that, “you’re actually nurturing the foundation of [your child’s] brain development when you wrap your little one in your arms”.

The benefits of hugging children

The simple act of hugging can be a magical thing. It can trigger a limitless number of physical, emotional, behavioural and social benefits for you and your child.
Hugging and the act of being physically close to your baby will help them to grow and thrive. It will also help to form the connections in their brain which will support their social and emotional growth.

Recent research has demonstrated how touch can also help infants:

  1. Grow and develop
  2. Gain weight
  3. Be more active
  4. Feel calmer and at ease
  5. Support their physical and emotional development
  6. Increase their immunity
  7. Sleep better
  8. Cry less
  9. Be more responsive
  10. Recognise their mother or other primary caregiver earlier

What’s more, giving your child a hug offers countless benefits for you too.

Hugging helps to release, the hormone oxytocin in your body. Oxytocin is responsible for promoting “feelings of devotion, trust and bonding," said DePauw University psychologist Matt Hertenstein in a recent interview with National Public Radio (NPR). This crucial hormone will helps you develop a healthy, positive and engaging relationship with your little one.
St. Francis Xavier University also found that mothers who had lots of skin-to-skin contact with their newborn baby:

  • Reported lower levels of depression.
  • Felt more sensitive to their baby’s cues.

So hugging has benefits for you and your baby.

How can hugging influence your child’s future?

Hugging and gentle touch will help you to calm and bond with your baby when they are tiny. However, the benefits of hugging in infancy extend far into your child’s future as well.
A recent study, ‘Love and the hippocampus’ from the Washington University School of Medicine studied the effects of early maternal nurturing on brain development in school-age children.
Researchers found that children “whose mothers nurtured them psychologically early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus”. The hippocampus helps your child develop healthy behaviour associated with learning, memory and stress.

Who knew that hugging your baby could increase their chances of learning better and faster when they get to school?

Three ways to give the best hugs

Now that you understand just how important hugging is, here are a few tips on how to boost cuddles with your little one. Next time you hug your baby try:

  1. Making eye contact and smiling at them.
  2. Giving baby talk a go. Imitating or explaining your baby’s feelings with vocal expression and chatter will help them learn about what they’re going through.
  3. To be patient if your little one is crying. Avoid raising your voice when you are near your baby. Do you best to stay calm and reassure them and yourself too, that everything is okay. Always remember that its ok to put baby in a safe place and take some time out.

Although life may get busy and a bit crazy, remember that giving your child a hug costs nothing and is a really important thing you can do for them. Those few seconds can truly help your little one be set up for a healthy and positive life.