Why You Should Always Cuddle Your Baby
When baby starts to cry, a parent’s first reaction is to hold and soothe them. This response is an instinct that is often challenged by well-meaning family members, friends, and sometimes a stranger in the grocery store. Somewhere down the line, someone told parents that holding their baby too much would spoil them but, more recently, that advice is being debunked by experts as they continue to research the importance of touch for infants.
Research with premature babies has shown that gentle massages several times a day helped babies to gain weight faster and lead to them being released from the hospital several days earlier than premies who had not been massaged. Further research focuses on the benefit of “kangaroo care” or skin to skin contact after birth for full-term and premature babies. This practice appears to benefit breastfeeding outcomes, cardio‐respiratory stability and decreases infant crying. It makes a basic connection between “self” and “other,” which researchers say lays the groundwork for imitating and learning from the behavior of other people, and for empathizing with them.
Oxytocin, known as the “bonding” or “love/cuddle” hormone, is released through close physical contact. "Oxytocin is a neuropeptide, which basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding," says Matt Hertenstein, an experimental psychologist at DePauw University in Indiana. "It really lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people," Hertenstein says. Touch has also been known to help with learning engagement in older children. One study found that students are three times as likely to participate in class after a teacher pats them in a friendly way.
Touch is a necessary sense for building relationships and the relationship with our children is one of the most important. Never turn down a hug, cuddle as much as you can, maybe add a massage into your bedtime routine, but most of all remember: food spoils, babies don’t!