"The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom," noted H.W. Beecher, the late Congregationalist clergyman, speaker and writer. A mother's kisses, cuddles and calming voice provide a comforting environment for her baby from the moment of birth. Creating a protective mother-infant bond will have a deep impact on how a baby grows, develops and ultimately gets along in the world.
1. Time and Touch
Holding your baby close to your heart in a sling, singing her a lullaby or gently gliding her back and forth in a rocking chair all help solidify and strengthen the mother-infant bond. Gently massaging your baby's back, tummy, arms and legs can benefit both mother and baby, notes WebMD. Massage can relieve stress in babies, encourage growth in premature or small infants, while helping ease the "baby blues" some new moms experience.
2. Brain Power
A secure, loving relationship with the mother promotes healthy circuitry in an infant's developing brain, explains the University of Washington. Every infant's experience with his mother -- such as exchanging smiles, playing pat-a-cake or going for a ride in a stroller -- stimulates certain neural circuits. Feeling safe, wanted and important -- in essence, being the center of his mother's universe -- helps ignite his social, emotional and language skills.
3. Nutrition and Wellness
Breastfeeding provides a special kind of warmth and closeness with your baby. From a wellness standpoint, the antibodies, hormones and cells in breast milk shield your baby from illness while promoting healthy growth. Breast milk helps ensure that your infant's organs will develop properly, explains HealthyChildren.org, the official website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
4. Expert Insight
A mother plays a critical role in her child's attitudes and character, according to Chuck Smith, a Kansas State University child development expert. A mother teaches her son how to treat a woman by the quality -- or lack thereof -- of her relationship with his father. A mother is the primary role model for her young daughter who will eventually grow into a woman much like herself, adds Smith.
Mothers who develop postpartum or maternal depression may be incapable of fully bonding with their babies. Maternal depression is a risk factor for the social, emotional and cognitive development of children, according to a 2004 report published in the journal "Paediatrics & Child Health." Toddlers of mothers with maternal depression tend to be less creative during play and exhibit lower cognitive performance. School age kids tend to have lower IQ scores and are more vulnerable to developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A new mother who has any symptoms of postpartum depression, such as lack of energy, irritability or hopelessness should contact her health care provider immediately for professional help.
- Washington State University: The First Relationship: Parent-infant Attachment is Key to Child’s Development
- HealthyChildren.org: How Your Newborn Behaves
- Kansas State University: A Powerful Connection: Mother-Child Bond Plays Important Role in Child's Growth and Development
- WomensHealth.gov: Breastfeeding
- HealthyChildren.org: Why Breastfeed
- WebMD: Forming a Bond With Your Baby -- Why It Isn't Always Immediate
- JohnsonsBaby.com: The Importance of Touch
- PsychologyToday.com: 50 Quotes on Mothers
- MedlinePlus: Postpartum Depression
- Paediatrics & Child Health: Maternal Depression and Child Development
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