Hugging your Baby: Effects on a Mother's Brain

Hugging your baby is necessary and essential for both you and your little one. Learn about the effects of hugging on the brain.
Hugging your Baby: Effects on a Mother's Brain
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

To your baby, you’re an endless supply of the best hugs in the world. You’re always there to take them in your arms and hug them, whether it’s because they’re sad, hurt, crying, or simply because you want to give them a hug. Your warm hug makes them instantly feel better because of its powerful calming effect. But, do you know what happens to your brain when hugging your baby? Keep reading to find out.

Hugging your baby is magical

Did you know that baby hugs are magical for moms?

In fact, a study from the American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing states that it can minimize, and even help, postpartum depression.

In addition, the same study found that cuddling your baby can reduce maternal anxiety and encourage a safe bond between mother and baby.

mom hugging baby

Also, Ann Bigelow, a professor of developmental psychology and a researcher at St Francis Xavier University, suggests that hugs can change the way you engage as a parent.

“They seem to be more sensitive to their baby’s signals and babies respond better to the mother during the first three months.” They recognize their mother earlier, so the relationship between mother and baby has an easy start.”

Effects of hugging your baby on the brain

Why are baby hugs so magical? It has to do with the chemicals in your brain. Research shows that the physical act of hugging or holding hands can help people feel less stressed. That’s because your cortisol levels, the stress-controlling hormone, plummet when you’re touched in a friendly way. 

Also, a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that hugging your baby can increase oxytocin release. This is the “hug hormone,” which helps bring people closer together and establishes better emotional bonds. 

hug baby

Hugging improves your bond with your baby

Hugging your baby improves your bond with them, and moms aren’t the only ones who benefit from these hugs. Of course, hugging your child is known to improve your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. However, those hugs also help your baby’s brain development, strengthen their immune system, teach them to regulate their emotions, and foster positive self-esteem.

A mother’s brain needs hugs from her baby

So, don’t hesitate to go hug your baby as soon as possible, because they need it more than anything in the world. However, not only do they need your hugs, but you also need their hugs more than anything else. Holding your baby will instantly make you feel good.

Therefore, you should stop listening to those people who tell you not to hug your baby too much because it’ll spoil them. Hugging your baby and giving them love isn’t spoiling them. Instead, you should keep them in your arms for as long as possible.

Remember, you’re not spoiling them. You’re raising them to feel safe and loved, as well as respected. They’ll know that their parents are taking care of them whenever they need. Give your baby all the hugs because it’s beneficial for both of you! And every child needs a loving and caring home. 

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Dombrowski, M. A. S., Anderson, G. C., Santori, C., & Burkhammer, M. (2001). Kangaroo (skin-to-skin) care with a postpartum woman who felt depressed. MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 26(4), 214-216.
  • Sumioka, H., Nakae, A., Kanai, R., & Ishiguro, H. (2013). Huggable communication medium decreases cortisol levels. Scientific reports, 3(1), 1-6.
  • Wei, D., Lee, D., Cox, C. D., Karsten, C. A., Peñagarikano, O., Geschwind, D. H., … & Piomelli, D. (2015). Endocannabinoid signaling mediates oxytocin-driven social reward. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45), 14084-14089.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.