NewsHugging babies: scientists find the secret to a perfect...

Hugging babies: scientists find the secret to a perfect cuddle


Scientists from Japan have unlocked the secret to a perfect hug. Though it may sound frivolous, in reality, hugging babies is something that we must understand; who would want to be judged by the munchkins? Much of how an infant feels depends on the pressure applied and who’s hugging, it turns out.

Researchers from the Toho University of Japan had conducted a study on infants to find out their stimuli to various embraces. The research also meant to find out the effect of hugs from parents and unknown people. The result was published in the Journal Cell, Agence France Presse reports.

How was it done?

Babies were connected to a sensor that would reflect their heartbeat (which in turn will translate the amount of stress) upon receiving the various amounts of pressure in the form of hugs, while parents were fitted with pressure sensors to note the amount of pressure they’d expert. The idea was to connect the two to determine the baby’s opinions.

It is to be noted here that when the baby is growing, a lot of its time is spent in the arms of its parents or caregivers. Hence, finding out the result of this experiment was especially relevant.

Scientists unlock the secret to perfectly hugging babies (Image by Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash)

“It was almost impossible to avoid infant’s bad mood during a one-minute or longer hold or hug,” says one of the core members of the finding to AFP. The hugs were each made to last around 30 seconds in order to get the closest natural result.

A similar test was conducted on the parents of the children while they were hugging their infants. The parents were also measured by their heart rates to reveal their level of calmness or stress while hugging.

The result

On babies- The test result invariably brought out the different reaction of the babies under different cuddle types. 

The stage of no hugging: At this stage, the babies did not show any significant signs of comfort.
 A medium hug: At this stage, the babies showed a very relaxed reaction
A tight hug: Babies reacted quite negatively to a tight hug
Hug from unknown female: well, unsurprisingly perhaps, they were not at their best mood at this time

Inference of the trial

Babies were reportedly soothed the most when they received a nice warm ‘medium-tight’ hug from their parents. They were apparently agitated if hugged too tightly. In a position of no-hug, they did not show signs of calmness. Hence it was concluded that a medium-tight hug is the best for your little angels. Parents were also much more calm and relaxed when they were hugging their babies than when they were not.

Application of the inference

While the scientists could not attribute the function of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone during the trial since the time slot of 20 seconds was too short to produce a significant amount of oxytocin. However, they claimed that being able to measure the psychological effects of physical closeness on infants could play a groundbreaking role in the spheres of child psychology and parent-child bonding.

The researchers further claimed that this method of testing could also help in detecting early signs of autism in infants.

“Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have difficulties in sensory integration and social recognition,” said Hiromasa Finito, a researcher from the team to AFP.

Photo by Mikael Stenberg on Unsplash

He also mentioned: “Therefore, our simple hug experiment might be utilized in the early screening of the autonomic function (that regulates unconscious bodily processes), sensory integration, and development of social recognition in infants with high familial risk for ASD.

This statement really opens up a new horizon in detecting motor-neuro defects in newborns much earlier. Early detection would mean an early start of treatment.

Who would have thought a simple hug has a right and wrong way and can be so important for an infant?


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