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by Katie Hodgkins

Why I Love Cuddling My Baby

They tell you that motherhood is life changing, and the best thing that you can ever dream of being blessed with.

And they’re right.

But what words cannot do justice in describing to mummies to be, is the absolute pureness and heart melting feeling of a cuddle with your tiny baby.

Why I love cuddling my baby

1) His smell. Oh lord, his unique scent makes my heart soar. I could sniff him out blindfolded in a room of babies! He smells of… baby. MY baby. The best scent on the planet! And don’t get me started on how good his hair smells!

2) His warmth is comforting and relaxing.

3) Feeling his heartbeat against mine, knowing that I made this perfect boy and his beautiful heartbeat.

4) Feeling how relaxed he becomes on me and feeling so loved and needed, knowing that my hugs are something he enjoys and benefits from.

5) The contented noises he makes when he nuzzles into me; like a cross between a purr and a sigh. Music to my ears.

6) How he places his hand on my heart when he dozes, like he knows that he owns my heart.

7) When he actively seeks me out to have some cuddle time; this makes me feel validated and loved – not that mums of babies who aren’t tactile aren’t loved or valid, of course!

8) The scientifically proven benefits for us both; its win-win to enjoy our cuddle time! I know that it is good for him (and me), and it makes me want to snuggle the little dude even more.

Man, I’m getting broody just writing about it!

Cuddling and close contact with your baby has proven mental and physical benefits!

I bloody love cuddling my son. This post will explore the proven benefits of cuddling your baby, and why we should ignore anyone who criticises us for having ‘velcro babies‘! In fact, touch & physical nurturing is vital for optimal development in all areas for your wee one.

The science behind why cuddling your baby is important…

“You hold him too much!”

“Making a rod for your own back….”

“Stop cuddling him all the time!”

Irritating, false bollocks.

Countless studies have found that cuddling and physical contact is vital for babies; look at the many scientific studies that are available to the public, speak to a psychologist. It’s fact.

Cuddles are actually very important for many aspects of child development.

Cuddles build a positive attachment between baby and parent.

Cuddles make a child feel reassured and trust you will be there when they need you.

Cuddles equip children with enhanced confidence and self assuredness well into adulthood.

It’s all to do with a magical hormone called oxytocin (AKA the love hormone!) which is vital during early infancy development. Oxytocin is a ‘feel good hormone’ which helps to develop positive attachments, and cuddling is a fab way to release oxytocin and promote bonding.

A study found that babies who were raised in environments (such as orphanages before attachment theory became well known and babies were left to cry) lacking nurturing and emotional engagement had lower levels of a hormone called vasopressin, which promotes family bonding and familial recognition.

In addition, cuddling is the number one way to comfort an upset baby! A distressed child releases cortisol, the stress hormone, which studies suggest causes permanent neurological harm in large quantities… quantities that can occur when a child is left to cry and cry with no comfort for over 30 minutes at a time. Dr Penelope Leach talks of the concept here; it is an interesting read.

“Once he or she has been delivered, the baby’s brain absolutely and immediately requires these human intimate experiences for its optimal growth. A new baby cannot remain in limbo while her mother takes a couple of days to recover from the birth or her father settles things at work before starting paternity leave and getting into parenting. Worldwide research is showing that a secure attachment to their mothers is crucial to all aspects of babies’ lifelong development. And that secure attachment is promoted by mothers who are sensitive and responsive to their babies, and protect them as far as possible from stress.

It’s easy to see (and hear) that it’s very stressful for a baby to be left crying hard and alone. What can’t be seen – and research has only recently explained – is that acute stress is never good for babies and too much of it can actually be damaging to their brains and their development. When researchers compare children of any age on any aspect of development – learning language, resilience when things go wrong, sociable play with other children – the tuned-in-ness and responsiveness of their mothers in the first year explains more of the difference between children’s achievements than anything else.” (Dr Penelope Leach)

Have you heard about the 4th Trimester?

The ‘Fourth Trimester’ is another interesting theory that makes SO much sense. historically, babies have been expected to get used to this frightening new world way too quickly, with ‘detachment’ encouraged and mums told that they’re going to ‘spoil’ their newborn by being emotionally and physically attentive to their baby’s needs. However… it’s now evident that there is a ‘fourth trimester’ post-birth where your baby is still extremely reliant upon you and needs constant nurturing in order to adapt to their new surroundings. Babies don’t realise they’re not part of Mummy. It is definitely a useful topic for new mums to read up on if they’re concerned their baby is too ‘clingy’.

Too often, people have flippantly told me, unsolicited, that I am ‘making a rod for my own back‘ by always responding to Max when he cries. However, babies cry for a reason and don’t develop the ability to manipulate their caregiver for attention until 12-18 months! Studies show that it is literally IMPOSSIBLE to ‘spoil’ a baby with too many cuddles!

So, this is why I will never listen when people roll their eyes and tell me that I cuddle my son ‘too much’.

Personal benefits…

I had post natal depression – actually, I probably still do to an extent but I am recovering well and feeling *almost* back to normal.

I HATED picking my baby up. I hated interacting with him. I hated it when he cried. I felt useless and I was irrationally convinced that my son hated me. Thank goodness for my amazing partner stepping in and ensuring that our son had everything he needed in terms of nurturing.

The guilt and shame eats me up constantly, even now being in a totally different place mentally…

Then I saw a research article explaining the benefits of cuddling… and this was my medicine.

I’m a total science nerd so I immediately jumped on the researching, and from this I made a plan.

I made sure I cuddled my baby boy every spare second, despite how shit I was feeling. I bought a sling to baby wear (not that I could do that for as long as I’d have liked as he’s massive and I have a bad back). Breastfeeding is an excellent bonding tool but this didn’t work out due to medical complications, so I demand fed formula rather than schedule feeding.I thanked my lucky stars that I already had a Chicco Next To Me cosleeping crib to co-sleep. Closeness and contact were vital for what I wanted to achieve.

Hugs have helped to heal me.

Consistent cuddling, holding, kissing and loving has sent me from merely ‘going through the motions’ to actually having a nurturing bond with my son. I feel like a brand new woman, and cannot relate at all to the state I was in before, and all thanks to the marvellous bonding promoted by oxytocin.

Hugs have given my son the mama he truly deserves.

In essence… cuddles are the best thing that you can ever do for your baby. You cannot do much for a young baby, other than cuddle them as much as possible and as your baby gets older, snuggle time can be beneficial to every aspect of your parent/baby dynamic, from sleep to gentle discipline; cuddles are a fantastic tool.

They’ve helped my post natal depression more than words can say, to the point that I no longer need medication,

They helped me and my son bond during a time of severe emotional turmoil and anxiety.

I will never, ever feel guilty or conflicted about cuddling my baby boy, and neither will his daddy!

So mamas, ignore anyone giving you grief about cuddling your sweet babies ‘too often’!

Yeah, sometimes it’s not practical to have a baby on you 24/7, so don’t feel guilty for putting your little baby down!

But honestly – get all those cuddles in whilst your baby still wants them. They grow up and gain  independence faster than we ever realise.

I hope that you enjoyed reading; enjoy those cuddles, mamas, and ignore anyone who has anything negative to say.

Love from Katie! Xx

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Katie Hodgkins Image
I'm Katie, and I'm a mama, wife, and freelance content creator for Bump, Baby & You. I also help to run our thriving online community over in our Facebook support group, as well as volunteering for my local branch of the National Childbirth Trust. I'm a busy bee and enjoy keeping active, cooking, writing, and fun days out with my little family. My special topics of interest are... autism (as me and my son are both autistic), science, all things parenting and pregnancy related, and The Handmaids Tale!
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