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The wonder of hugging

Hugs don’t just feel great, but there are some amazing health benefits too. What’s that all about? 

Have you ever heard of oxytocin?  Its other name is the ‘Hormone of Love’.  Oxytocin is the hormone that appears whenever we hug, make love, give birth, and breastfeed.  It is an extremely important hormone!  

I guess we know that hugs are a great thing because they make us feel good, feel loved and feel supported.  It’s interesting to know that this is backed by science.  Over 600 scientific papers have been published on the effects of human touch on babies. 

Sensitive touch and hugs not only stimulate growth and development, but has a high impact on short-term behaviour, and long term mental and emotional development.  

And it’s not just beneficial for the person receiving the hugs; giving hugs reduces stress and has all of the same advantages as those who receive the hug.  It’s a win win for all. 

Babies who are born premature benefit hugely from hugs.  Often referred to as Kangaroo Care, parents are encouraged to hold baby close, skin to skin to promote growth, healthier heart rates and respiration, increased breastfeeding, increased immunity, and it helps to regulate body temperature.   

“The Power of Human Touch for Babies”, (Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres) states that “prenatal massage (i.e., massage during pregnancy) has been shown to have beneficial effects for both mother and baby, including improved mental health for mothers, decreased maternal pain, and improved relationship with their partner.  Also, infants born to mothers who had prenatal massage had greater weight and gestational age at birth than those infants born to women who did not receive prenatal massage.  Research has also shown that parental stroking of their infant after birth may help to protect them against the effects of risk factors, such as parent mental health problems, on the child’s later development.” 

Sometimes with your older child you may find that their behaviour leaves you feeling like giving them a hug is the last thing you want to do!  However, you might be surprised to learn that this can be one of the best times to give a hug. It calms you both down and reminds you both of the love that you have for each other and that you can find ways together to solve the problem. 

A hug is something that is understood by all languages and all cultures – so go on, give some extra hugs today! 

Neuro-economist Paul Zak, also known as “Dr. Love,” recommends at least eight hugs a day to be happier and enjoy better relationships. Psychotherapist Virginia Satir also famously said:  

“We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”  


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