Did you know that babies as young as four months old already know what hugs mean? In general, adults understand very well what hugs mean to themselves, but they may wonder how infants feel and interpret it. Is hugging good or bad for them? Hugs are universal and most of the time reciprocal in human communities. Actually, when a mom or a dad pulls their baby in close and wraps their arms around their little one, both parent and baby benefit from it.

Fulfilling the primal urge to be safe and belong, such as a language without words, a hug can make both the infant or toddler and the parent feel relieved and happy, creating a powerful bond. Depending on how and by whom they are hugged, this kind of endearment has a relaxing and positive effect on young children.

Researchers at Toho University in Tokyo, Japan, measured the heart rate of infants up to one year old, and determined that babies feel the difference between a soft and cozy hug, intended for comfort and affection, versus a hug simply used for feeding or carrying. The scientists were even able to see that babies know the difference between who is holding them, a parent or a stranger. This study and previous ones shine an interesting light on kids' earliest experience in life.

Picture: Alan & Mom (ChildUp.com)