My daughter, now nearly four years old, has always been what I call a Velcro kid. It seems as if some force causes her body to cling to mine. When she was a baby, this manifested in the form of very frequent hugs. Each time I picked her up , she put her arms around my neck and squeezed me. Hugging, along with other displays of affection such as kissing and patting, actually constitutes a developmental milestone. Babies begin hugging as a part of normal social and physical development. Here are some things to consider about hugs as a milestone for babies.
1. Most babies hug at around 5 months of age. As a general rule, babies begin hugging their parents, siblings, stuffed animals, and pets some time between 4 and 6 months of age-- at an average of about 5 months. Babies who are naturally very affectionate or clingy may hug a little earlier than their peers. My very affectionate daughter, for example, started hugging at around four months, while her more aloof cousin didn't hug until six months of age.
2. Hugging is instinctive. Hugging isn't something that babies must be taught; they do it naturally. If you look at our closest relatives, such as bonobos and chimpanzees, you'll notice that the youngest animals embrace their parents as a way of holding on while the parents cruise about. We humans are able to hold our babies in our arms, so they have lost the reflex and strength to cling as well as their evolutionary cousins. Nevertheless, it is a normal and natural part of a baby's social and physical development.
3. Babies' personalities vary. Not every child in the world is like my little velcro-baby. While she has always been very interested in hugs, kisses, and cuddles, many other children are less inclined to engage in these displays of affection because they are more focused on learning and exploring. Baby's personalities differ even at birth. Whether your baby is extremely affectionate or relatively un-affectionate compared to his peers, it's important to remember that your baby loves you and that he is developing at his own appropriate pace.
4. An inability to hug might rarely be a sign of a problem. Although some perfectly healthy babies with perfectly normal development are uninterested in hugging, most babies should be able to give hugs by about 7 months of age. If your baby doesn't have the physical strength and coordination to embrace you, it could be a sign of a delay in his motor development. In this case, an inability to hug will likely be combined with other red flags, such as an an inability to sit, a "floppy" or hypotonic feeling, or an inability to roll over. While a general lack of hugging isn't necessarily cause for alarm, schedule a chat with your pediatrician if you notice any of these symptoms. He can evaluate your baby's general health to rule out an underlying problem.
Visit Parenting.com for more information about baby developmental milestones.
Related Work by Juniper Russo