Another Reason to Hug Your Baby

“Give me a hug, slug!”

Five little words that mean so much.

My 6-year-old daughter knows there is nothing in the world that makes her mommy smile faster, brighter and longer than hearing her utter the words: “Give me a hug, slug!”

I don’t know exactly how or when she came up with the phrase, but I know I will never forget it for as long as I live.

Hugging is commonplace around here. We’re huggers. Serious huggers. And proud of it. In fact, there is little that a hug doesn’t make better in our family. Hurt feelings. Hug. Bad day. Hug. Face plant off the bed. Double hug.

“How ‘bout a hug” and “Let’s hug,” are among the top 10 phrases that pass by my lips each day, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that my little hugger coined her own expression to encourage physical affection.

Given all of the cuddling that goes on here, you’d think we’d be the ideal candidates to take part in a study about the benefits of hugging. But, alas, the folks at Duke University turned to others when it came time to prove that babies who receive “above-average levels of affection and attention from their mothers are less likely than other babies to grow up to be emotionally distressed, anxious, or hostile adults.”

Ah yes, the power of a good hug.

According to researchers, who traced the behavioral patterns of nearly 500 men and women from infancy to adulthood, babies, whose mothers consistently snuggle with and dote on them, grow into adults with “better than normal psychological health.”

Duke researchers believe that the release of oxytocin reduces anxiety and promotes happiness. “Oxytocin adds [to] the perception of trust and support, and hence is very helpful in building social bonds,” researchers explain. “It’s plausible that close parent-child bonds help support the neural development of the areas of the brain that make and use oxytocin, setting up the child for more effective social interactions and mental health in the future.”

So, finally, we have scientific research to prove what seems so common sense to me: A simple hug can make a world of difference.

Have you hugged your baby today?

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.