Can I Cuddle My Baby? comes up a lot especially from new mums with a baby who just wants to cling to them.

This post is about baby development, your parenting instincts, what’s normal and why cuddling babies and children is not just lovely it’s crucial.

In Western society babies can be seen as creatures to train and parents are encouraged to make their babies independent and self soothing. Any parent who cuddles, carries and soothes their baby can be seen as giving in, as failing, as making a rod for their own back.

So, if you are asking Can I Cuddle My Baby?
Here’s what the research tell us…

  • When your baby is born  he has approximately 200 billion brain cells but there are very few connections between these cells – these connections are mainly responsible for emotional and social intelligence.
  • 90% of brain growth takes place in the first five years of life
  • Early stress (prolonged crying) can create negative changes in a  baby’s brain which could mean they develop an over-sensitive stress response (stress and anxiety) which can affect them throughout their life.
  • By the time a baby turns one: babies cried much less if they had been soothed and attended to promptly whereas babies who had been left to cry, cried more.
  • If your baby clings to you – it is because he feel safe when he is being held.
can I cuddle my baby?
  • Not responding to a baby’s needs has been shown to interfere with their ability to form secure attachment bonds. As such, babies may be insecurely attached and they can produce high levels of cortisol  in response to stress.
  • If babies produce high levels of cortisol, they may be less able to adapt to new events or to regulate their emotions.
  • Parents who respond to the needs of their baby before he gets distressed are more likely to have a child who is independent.
  • Your baby is completely dependent on you for everything – food, warmth, comfort, safety – as well as helping him to be calm when stressed or frightened. When your baby is upset and then comforted by you he will be soothed, and the ability to self comfort will begin to develop. Babies are not able to self-soothe on their own – if a baby is regularly left to cry alone, they can learn to shut down, which can impact emotional and physical development.

Can I cuddle my baby?
Here are the benefits…

  • Babies grow from being held
  • Babies show their needs through gestures and cues and, then, through crying
  • Babies feel secure when they are responded to
  • Babies are more likely to thrive when they feel safe
  • Babies who are responded to cope better with stress and change as they grow, they learn to self sooth and regulate their emotions

Babies like:

  • cuddles
  • rocking, swaying and movement
  • sucking
  • massage
  • skin to skin
  • being carried
  • your voice

What to do if your baby needs to cling

  • Go with your instincts and soothe your baby, help him to sleep and to settle and don’t give yourself a hard time because you’re not doing anything wrong.
  • The more you respond to your baby’s needs, she will trust you and the more independent and happier she will be as she grows. If you battle with your baby and encourage her to be independent before she is ready, the more she will cling and be unsettled.
  • It’s really not easy at times but if your baby can’t settle away from you, if he needs cuddles, he needs security and help to feel safe, soothed and settled. He is not going to achieve this on his own.
  • Go at your baby’s pace – please don’t battle with your baby.
  • When you are tired and surrounded by well meaning advice, try to remember that your baby isn’t being manipulative or naughty, she isn’t trying to control you, she just needs you. And it won’t always be like this.

Can I cuddle my baby? Further reading

The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood 
Harvard University

Psychology Today:  Crying It Out

What every parent needs to know

A baby wants to be carried

Why love matters

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Working with parents since 2002

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