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Should you snuggle with your toddler before bedtime?

You hear all about the skin-to-skin or Kangaroo Care when your child is a baby, but what about when they’re a toddler?

Does snuggling your toddler before bed have benefits?

Why YES! Yes it does! And here’s why 👇

  1. Release of Oxytocin

  2. Improves Sleep

  3. Helps With Development

Let's take a closer look at each of these benefits:

  • Release of Oxytocin- When a person is embraced in a hug or being held, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is also known as the love or cuddle hormone, as well as one of the hormones that helps labor and lactation. When oxytocin is released, we are more relaxed, happy, and have positive feelings. Snuggling before bedtime reduces stress and anxiety, slows heart rate, and increases feelings of connectedness. In early childhood, it facilitates bonding between mother and child.

  • Improves Sleep- Higher levels of oxytocin have been linked to falling asleep faster and staying asleep. This might be due to oxytocin’s ability to regulate sleep patterns, which some studies have said can lead to fewer nightmares. Affectionate actions, like a human's embrace, not only increases oxytocin production, it also reduces the secretion of cortisol (stress hormone). When you make physical contact with someone you care about, the production of oxytocin rushes at the same time that cortisol is subdued, leading to a calmer state. The lower the level of cortisol, the easier it is to fall asleep, as more melatonin is produced to help you fall asleep. Also, the stronger the bond between parent and child, the more likely the child is to sleep well since they are with someone that they love and trust. Snuggling at bedtime can strengthen that bond with your toddler, as long as they want to snuggle.

  • Helps with Development- When oxytocin is released while snuggling, it increases growth and nerve hormones, which boosts physical development, strengthens their immune system, improves heart health and reduces stress. Hugs and snuggling also provide these continued benefits: help children’s brain development, emotional development, and emotional regulation. During those important first five years of life, when the architecture of the brain is being built, nurturing touch increases oxytocin receptors and lowers cortisol.


Healthy Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries with your toddler can also help when it comes to hugs. Teach them that their body is their own, and if they don't want to be touched that's OK. Respect the boundary they were so brave to verbalize. Children should never be forced to hug or cuddle when they don’t want to. Talk with other adults close to your toddler and explain this healthy boundary, along with voicing that it is important for the adult to respect it as well. Older kids may be more reluctant to snuggle, and for some their love language is NOT physical touch.

Benefits for Parents

And the benefits go both ways. Parents feel better, and kids do, too. From the first moments of life, gentle touch and hugs are positive for both the baby and the parent. The parent's heart rate slows, they have the same release of oxytocin, less cortisol production (less stress), and releases hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain that support positive feelings. So many benefits for parents and kids!

Best Time To Snuggle

When is the best time to snuggle with your toddler? Before they fall asleep! I always recommend my clients to snuggle during books and songs. That way once your child is in bed or goes into bed, they have that release of oxytocin, are calm, and happy! This makes falling asleep easier.

What's Next?

Is your toddler falling asleep in your arms, refuses to sleep in their bed, waking up multiple times at night, have bedtime battles with endless toddler negotiations that make you dread the nighttime?

If you know something needs to change after reading this, but not sure exactly HOW to do it, HLO Toddler Sleep Solutions will take out all of the guesswork for you.

Our Toddler Sleep Solutions program is personalized to your family and child(ren), with parent present techniques that YOU choose which one best fits your parenting style AND your child's personality/temperament.

In as little as 1-3 weeks, your family can achieve more enjoyable and less stressful bedtimes, longer stretches of nighttime sleep with less night wakings, improved naps, and you have a happy little one upon waking!

Here's where to start!

Anna specializes in Toddler Sleep, and works with families ready to transition to more independent sleep. She is available to help your family get the sleep they deserve. Anna encourages you to follow Happy Little Ones on Instagram for more tips and tricks!

Ready for more sleep but not exactly sure on HOW to make the necessary changes? Schedule your free 15 minute sleep evaluation call to be one step closer to accomplishing your sleep goals. Wondering what other families have experienced after working with me?

Read before + after stories HERE!

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