Hugs: The Powerful Science Behind How They Do a Body, Brain Good
November 17, 2017
City Dads Group co-founders Lance Somerfeld and Matt Schneider at Huggies Parents Council in Chicago. (Contributed photo)
DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Huggies®.
Hugging my children has such a positive impact on my life. It makes me feel better during my worst moments and most challenging days. It comforts me in the morning when I send my kids off to school. It warms my heart in the afternoon when they return home.
These emotional and physiological outcomes are all wonderful, but I’ve never tried to understand the science and culture of why that is so.
Fortunately, I learned someone else has.
The Huggies Parents Council, a diverse group of moms and dads from around the nation who care deeply about their families, recently met in Chicago where the Huggies brand team helped us understand what it means when Huggies says it believes in the power of hugs — especially a parent’s hugs — to help our little ones thrive.
Parenting expert, author and pediatrician Dr. William Sears and behavioral and brain scientist Dr. Olivier Oullier presented us with data that shows the many measurable benefits of hugging for baby and parents alike. These include lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and boosting the immune system just to name a few.
For children, parental hugs assist in their emotional and physiological development. Hugs make them happier and more resilient, less prone to illness, and create stronger family connections and bonds. A recent Huggies study titled “The Power of Human Touch for Babies,” shows skin-to-skin hugs not only calm a cry or soothe away stress, they also:
can help keep a baby’s heart beating at a normal rate
support healthy weight gain
In addition, MRI and PET scans have revealed hugs stimulate the release of dopamine, body’s own feel-good medicine. I witnessed this explosion of the body’s positive information flow firsthand . I participated in a neuroscience experiment using a revolutionary neuroheadset scanner that monitored my brain activity to show the profound difference before and immediately after a hug:
Before a hug
Everything’s quiet in my brain before someone hugs me.
Right after a hug:
BOOM! Brainwave tidal wave!
To further demonstrate my “brain on hugs,” I’d like to share with you a highlight reel with five of my most memorable hugs as a parent.
Lance bonding with his son at four days old.
1. Becoming a father and hugging my son for the first time. “Holy cow! I can’t believe I’m a dad.” I couldn’t believe the surge of immediate responsibility I felt as a father when I first held my son. I showered him with love, affection and hugs in those first few moments even though everything seemed like a blur. Our son spent most of his early days sleeping, but I was on a quest to make sure I became competent at holding, feeding, changing and cuddling with him.
Behold, a daughter joins the family.
2. Hugging my daughter for the first time. After losing my mother to cancer, we named our daughter after her. This created an instant, loving bond the moment we welcomed her to the world. I held and hugged her in the delivery room and spent what felt like hours studying every precious wrinkle and nook of her face as she lay sleeping in my arms.
My 90-year-old grandmother hugs my daughter.
3. Watching my 90-year-old grandmother hug my daughter. Do you really want to understand the power of a hug? I wasn’t even involved in this loving squeeze between my grandmother and my daughter, but the powerful effect as a parent/observer still blew me away and hit all the feels.
Hugging my kids extra tight before I go.
4. Hugging my children when preparing to leave on a business trip. We strive to be successful in both our careers and as parents. It’s such a tender moment for me when I give my children an extra long, tight hug before a business trip knowing that I won’t be around that night to tuck them in, read a bedtime story or kiss them goodnight.
Providing a comfortable place for napping when your kid is sick.
5. Hugging my children when they were sick. I feel a combination of love, empathy and helplessness when my children are sick. At just a few months old, my daughter contracted a nasty stomach virus where it was a constant flood coming out of all ends. I felt so frustrated because it was completely out of my control. On the plus side, the hours that she wanted to be held and hugged made us both feel a little better.
I’m fortunate to be present in my children’s lives for daily hugs, monumental hugs and those necessary hugs when my kids are in the dumps. These years with young children are fleeting, but I’m still looking forward to an abundance of hugs in the days and years ahead.
Do you have a favorite or memorable hugging moment with your children? Please share it in the comments.
SPECIAL OFFER: Huggies diapers and wipes are inspired by parents’ hugs that nurture and care at every moment. Visit Huggies.com to get $2 off a pack of Huggies Little Snugglers Diapers, so you can nurture and care for your little one.
About our sponsor
Huggies believes deeply in the Power of Hugs, which is why every diaper and wipe is inspired by a parent’s embrace. The Huggies No Baby Unhugged program helps ensure all babies get the hugs they need to thrive by supporting hugging programs in hospitals and donating diapers across the country. Learn how you can help at Huggies.com . #HuggiesCouncil #ad