Giving a Newborn a Snuggle Could Affect Their DNA, Studies Show

Any parent’s instinct is to hold, care for, and even snuggle with their newborn. However, this may do more than just tend to their baby’s needs. According to research published in an online journal, a simple physical touch can help shape the DNA of a baby.

Giving a Newborn a Snuggle

More About the Snuggle Research

There are surely many decisions and moves that new parents must do early on with their babies. This study emphasizes snuggling or comforting contact with the infant. A team of scientists from the University of British Columbia in Canada worked with the parents of 94 newborns. They asked them to keep a log of their touching and cuddling habits with their babies from the time they were five weeks old. The researchers also kept records of the behaviors of their newborns, such as how much they cried and slept.

Four and a half years later, the same researchers took DNA samples from the kids to analyze one very specific biochemical modification, called DNA methylation. It affects how genes express themselves and how cells mature. The gathered data showed that the DNA methylation of the baby could be affected by environmental factors, such as a parent giving a snuggle.

Affecting the Immune System and Metabolism

Giving a Newborn a Snuggle

The University of British Columbia researchers concluded that snuggling your kid can influence some epigenetic changes in five areas of their DNA. They may include areas related to the metabolism and immune system. They compared what they found for kids that are in a high-contact group, versus those in the low-contact group.

The kids in the latter group had a molecular profile in their DNA that was underdeveloped for their age. This points to the possibility that they were biologically lagging. This is a statement from a professor in the department of medical genetics, Michael Kobor. According to him, the researchers think that slower epigenetic aging may reflect less favorable developmental progress. Science is beginning to show more and more conclusively that a simple snuggle, a kiss, or a hug can increase the chance for a baby to be healthier and happier in the long run.