Cuddling is my favorite part of postpartum life. Honestly, it might be the only part I like. I mean, while I was glad to finally be done being pregnant, those first few months of motherhood were brutal. Somehow, though, when I was exhausted and felt like I had no idea what I was doing, baby cuddles made it all seem worth it. Luckily, my babies loved to snuggle, and I learned that if you watch closely you'll notice the many ways your baby is trying to tell you it's cuddle time.
There's the first time they cry, which will break your heart but will send the distinct message that they need your warmth and comfort... like, right now. Then there's the way their tiny eyes light up when they are finally able to focus on you from across the room. The first time they babble something that sounds like "mama" will make your heart sing, and the way they seem to fit perfectly against your chest, and knead your body with their tiny hands, will relay their need for a warm hug.
Of course, there are other, less pleasant ways your baby will let you know that they want to be touched. For example, sometimes they will only sleep next to you or in your arms. If you put them down in their crib, their little eyes will pop open, as if to say, "Pick me up, mom. Now." It's exhausting, but honestly, I liked those moments, too. There's something magical about the quiet solitude of middle-of-the-night wake-ups or rocking my baby to sleep at nap time, just the two of us.
Pretty soon you'll find that you don't have to be a baby-whisperer to know when your baby wants to cuddle. They find ways to send that message loud and clear, including the following:
When They Cry
The first time my babies cried a switch flipped inside of me. Like, I had a primal need to hold them close, take care of them, and make everything OK. Simultaneously, though, I was scared out of my mind that I would somehow mess up as a mom.
Fortunately, I learned that even though it was painful to hear — like physically painful in the center of my chest — most of the time, when my babies cried, they just wanted me to pick them up. That, I could do.
When They Knead Your Body Like A Kitten
My babies all kneaded my breasts, belly, and even the skin on the underside of my arm, as if to say, "I'm comfy, and I have everything I need." I learned to take their fidgeting and "muffin-making" as a good sign, even if it wasn't always annoying. My 1-year-old son still does this when he cuddles. I never know when it will be the last time.
When They Fall Asleep On Your Chest
There's something about a baby falling asleep on your chest that just feels right. Everything else going on in your life (and the world) simply melts away. They relax to the sound of your heartbeat, and you relax to the sound of their breath. I wish I could record that feeling for when I have insomnia or am feeling stressed out, because you guys, it's literally the most relaxing feeling in the world.
When They Have To Touch You To Fall Asleep
Unfortunately, all of my kids have been crappy sleepers. I have to admit that I was totally part of the problem, too. You see, they would only fall asleep if I cuddled them, rocked them, or snuggled with them. In other words, my kids sleep trained me. While all of our kids now sleep through the night in their own spaces, I'm ashamed to admit I sometimes still snuggle them to sleep. What can I say? I love it.
When They Smile At You
When your baby smiles at you, it creates a connection like no other. Their eyes start to focus, and as soon as they can see you, they smile, and you know that there's nothing they'd rather do than snuggle with you.
When They Nap In Your Arms
My older kids were such intense snugglers that daycare would get frustrated that they wanted to be held all of the time. Somehow, they got them to sleep. I have no idea how, though, because at home they would only nap in my arms.
When They Only Let You Hold Them
My youngest went through a phase when he would only let me hold him. If I walked out of the room, he would let out a heartbreaking cry, and when I came back he would only stop crying if I picked him up. I swear he could recognize my smell, or mommy-pheromones, and wouldn't settle for less.
When They Say "Mama"
I legit cried the first time my son said "mama." He tugged at my pants, and said it with such insistence that I knew he wanted me to pick him up and cuddle with him. Honestly, he hasn't stopped saying "mama" or wanting to be snuggled since. Sometimes,I have moments when I am touched out, but for the most part I am enjoying his cuddling obsession, especially while he's still little and wants to be near me. The cliché is true, and time goes way too fast.
When They Reach For You
As toddlers, my kids would say "up, please," or "mama, up" when they wanted to be held. At 5, my son still asks, "Mama, will you snuggle with me?" every night before bed. But, before they learned the words as babies, they would reach for me and I heard what they wanted as clearly as if they had said the words out loud.