“Our skin is our security system, our sensations detector and our gateway to the world around us. Touch is the very first sense we develop in the human embryo – less than eight weeks after being conceived, an embryo is barely 2.5 centimeters long and has neither eyes nor ears, but its skin is already highly developed.” – Vanessa Van Edwards: The Power and Science of Cuddling
A few things are necessary for someone to develop into a well-functioning person. Of course, food, water, and shelter are the three “essential” needs; but humans also require interaction with others. We also need touch – and we’re going to explain why this is.
As Ms. Van-Edwards quoted above, skin is the first human organ to develop within the womb. A human embryo cannot see or hear but does have the sense of touch – just eight weeks after conception. Touch is also the last sense to diminish in old age.
Premature babies provide excellent insight into the importance of touch. Consider this study undertaken by Dr. Tiffany Field, director of the department of pediatrics at the University of Miami School of Medicine:
Randomized, controlled studies have documented greater weight gain in preterm newborns receiving moderate pressure massage therapy. These include our studies on preterm newborns who received 5-10 days of massage therapy and showed a 21-48% greater increase in weight gain and hospital stays of 3-6 days less than control infants.
In other words, premature babies – often in a delicate, unstable condition due to underdevelopment – gained nearly ¼ to ½ of their original weight due to touch. This accelerated weight gain stabilized the newborns’ health who were then able to go home in less time.
Beautiful stuff, isn’t it?
It isn’t just babies, either. While our preference for touch may change as we age, it nonetheless remains important to the brain.
Here we’ll discuss 7 reasons to touch, cuddle and hold each other! Some of the science behind the power of touch is quite fascinating.
7 REASONS TO CUDDLE EVERY DAY
1. CUDDLING RELEASES “FEEL GOOD” CHEMICALS
Oxytocin is a versatile hormone that plays important roles in social bonding and sexual reproduction. Cuddling is one way to release this “feel good” chemical, which strengthens the connection we feel with our partner. As you’ll see later on, oxytocin also produces other pleasurable sensations.