Your miracle has arrived! You’ve been preparing for this moment for months, perhaps longer. There has been so much to do getting the nursery ready, choosing a name, and organizing all the baby necessities. You’ve been mentally preparing, too. After all, starting a family is one of life’s biggest changes, and quite simply, your life will never be the same. You may have read as much as you could get your hands on about a baby’s development, what to expect at certain ages, milestones to reach, and so much more. Did you know that a mom’s emotional state of mind is an important aspect of an infant’s development?
Sharing the Same Wavelength
Research has shown that the brain waves of mothers and their babies are connected, working as a ‘mega network’ when they interact. The bottom line is that the more positive emotions or feelings a mother expresses, the stronger the brain connection is with her baby.
The research is fascinating. Through encephalopathy (testing that records electrical activity in the brain) and other analyses while mothers and babies are interacting, researchers found that mother and infant tend to synchronize their brain waves. They could see not only how information flowed in each separate brain, but also how both brains operated together as a network.
This is significant and serves as an important tool in baby’s brain development. “From our previous work, we know that when the neural connection between mothers and babies is strong, babies are more receptive and ready to learn from their mothers,” said Dr Vicky Leong in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology, who led the study. “At this stage of life, the baby brain has the ability to change significantly, and these changes are driven by the baby’s experiences. By using a positive emotional tone during social interactions, parents can connect better with their infants, and stimulate development of their baby’s mental capacity.”
While lots of positive, upbeat interaction and lots of eye contact promotes a strong connection and fertile learning environment for baby, the opposite is true. When mother is depressed, baby shows less evidence of learning due to a weakened neural connection. It follows, too, that in an emotionally low state of mind, a mom interacts less with baby. Depression, unfortunately, has a powerful and negative impact on the mom’s ability to establish a connection with her newborn. With less emotional input, baby’s ability to thrive is at risk.
Bonding with Baby
No doubt you’ve heard of bonding with your baby, referring to that oh-so-special attachment between parents and their newborn. Very often, the bond is immediate; in fact, it can begin well before baby arrives. Sometimes, though, it takes a little extra effort to create and maintain that unbreakable bond. Knowing that there is evidence to suggest that a mega network of mommy-baby brain waves is possible, and that it is vital to baby’s development, there are lots of things you can do to nurture and enhance it.
- Use your senses. Talk and sing to your precious little one; she will of course learn your voice and it will provide a sense of comfort. Gaze into her eyes, and she will meet your gaze. Stroke her velvety skin. (A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that premature babies who were stroked gained almost 50% more weight than babies who were not.) Whenever you are holding or rocking her, the physical connection is unmistakable and the bond is strengthening. Love that new baby smell? Breathe deeply. One study found that 90% of moms could identify their newborns by scent alone after spending a mere 10 minutes with them. That percentage jumped to 100% after moms spent an hour with their infants. The scent recognition is reciprocal and was shown to lower baby’s distress during a routine medical visit, according to another study.
- Give your baby a gentle massage. In this form of touching, research has shown that it enriches the parent-baby relationship. It can also relieve stress in premature infants as well as ease postpartum depression in the mom.
- Take a clue from a kangaroo. Skin to skin contact is an important aspect in calming a premature infant, and studies show it is beneficial to full-term babies, too. Not only does it enhance bonding, it can improve baby’s breastfeeding experience.
The Power of Love
Virtually every moment you spend with your baby is a bonding experience. The mother-baby bond exceeds the boundaries of your heart. Research continues to reveal the substantial impact it has on a growing child’s brain development. A close emotional attachment is also proving significant in preventing disease, boosting your baby’s immunity and enhancing her IQ.
The mystical connection of bonding may not come quickly or easily. There are many instances when opportunities to bond may feel out of reach. Perhaps childbirth has left you too physically sore, exhausted or anxious to experience the pleasures of early bonding. Perhaps your baby is colicky and no number of attempts to sooth her are working. Perhaps you have other children vying for your attention or you’ve returned to work outside the home, and it is just not possible to devote yourself entirely to your newborn. You can see where a multitude of scenarios can interrupt the typical flow of the bonding experience. But don’t fret. You’ve already begun an amazing journey with your new bundle of joy and happiness. The answer is quite simple.
Love will find a way.