There is so much more to the simple hug than you might think. KELLY EDEN explains the importance of skin-to-skin contact with your little one.
The importance of hugs
One of the most important gifts you can give your child to help them grow, learn and thrive socially as well as emotionally, is a hug.
People need physical touch. In society, we have become very conscious of child protection issues, we have forgotten how essential appropriate, loving touch is for our children. For our kids to grow up happy and healthy, we need to ensure we are giving them plenty of cuddles!
Hugs help you grow
The first time you hold your baby will probably be skin-to-skin – your tiny fresh newborn snuggled up against your chest. Hospitals started encouraging this when research revealed the power of this close contact which actually helps to regulate your newborn’s breathing and heart rate, calms them, and helps with bonding, growth, and feeding. This is true for both mums and dads giving their baby skin-to-skin time.
Baby carrying and co-sleeping are other ways to get in extra cuddle times. Try stripping your baby down to their nappy and snuggling them against your bare chest under a blanket or warm top, making sure they can breathe clearly. Don’t fall asleep with bub on your chest though. (Read up on safe ways to co-sleep beforehand.) With baby carrying, it’s best for both you and bub to use an ergonomically designed carrier or wrap: one that spreads babies weight across their legs and also supports your back.
Cuddles make relationships stronger
Physical touch is one of the five ‘Love Languages’ according to Dr Gary Chapman. These are ways that people feel and express love. When you hold your child, stroke their hair, or pat their back they feel loved. Your baby’s understanding of the world comes mostly from touch. It’s how they feel safe, comforted, loved and how they express love.
Touch is also crucial for social and behavioural development. Through loving touch, children make strong, positive attachments. In fact, not getting enough touch puts kids at high risk for social, behavioural, and emotional problems. Building a strong sense of attachment, love, and connection to you through touch will give your child the healthy base they need for future friendships and relationships.
A loving squeeze calms a tantrum
Infants are not only learning how to eat, move, and talk but are also learning how to manage their own emotions and self-regulate. Hugging and rocking your crying child helps them to learn to calm and comfort themselves. When young babies and children (or even older children with special needs) are having trouble calming down, try wrapping a blanket around them and giving them a firm, loving hug from behind. Being held in a warm, tight embrace like this has been shown to be incredibly calming for some children.
Whether it’s a full hug, a kiss on the check, or sitting arm-to-arm watching a movie, giving your kids as much loving touch as you can is incredibly beneficial for both them and you!
Kelly learnt about the importance of touch and skin-to-skin when her first child was born two months prematurely. She is a teacher, writer, blogger, and single mum to two wonderful young daughters who certainly love lots and lots of cuddles!