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The Science of Snuggles

Of course, snuggling feels cozy and fantastic but don’t be lulled into thinking it’s not power packed. Science has proven repeatedly that human touch and affection are nothing short of life-sustaining.

In the late 1950s, psychologist Harry Harlowe’s famous experiments with rhesus monkeys showed that baby monkeys would overwhelmingly choose to attach to soft, inanimate caretakers rather than milk-producing wire frames, suggesting touch could be more vital even than food. And, statistics show that babies deprived of touch fail to thrive and can actually die (even when receiving necessary medical treatment and proper nutrition).

In more recent years, research has uncovered an astounding list of psychological and physical benefits attributable to human touch. These include strengthening the immune system, calming cardiovascular stress, triggering the release of oxytocin aka the love hormone, providing a communication system often more clearly understood than words and facial cues, activating the vagus nerve which is involved with our compassion response, encouraging learning and, of course, establishing a basis for trust and bonding.

While all people need touch to thrive, for babies it is an essential and irreplaceable foundation for health, development and happiness. And while all baby-parent affection is positive, skin-to-skin is considered the top of the line as it most closely replicates the environment of total care, safety and connection experienced in the womb. It helps with everything from improving heart and lung function to stabilizing body temperature to regulation of blood sugar to bonding and more. For preterm newborns, skin-to-skin is a gamechanger. Studies show that preemies who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for 5-10 days gained 47 percent more weight than premature infants who’d received standard medical treatment. 

While there is so much more that could be said, I will rest my case here. Snuggle power is real and it’s a power for good. So, go on. Get out there and snuggle, snuggle and snuggle some more. Peace out.

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