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  • How Seeing Your Baby Smile Makes You Want To Care For Her More

    A study says seeing that gorgeous smile does more than make you kilig.
    by Kate Borbon .
How Seeing Your Baby Smile Makes You Want To Care For Her More
PHOTO BY iStock
  • When the demands of motherhood and raging hormones become overwhelming for a new mom, one thing that’s guaranteed to make the exhaustion and stress fade away is seeing her baby smile. But research says that your little one’s smile can do more than make you feel a whole new kind of kilig — it can motivate you to build a connection with her!

    In 2008, scientists from Texas, U.S.A. looked into what happens in a mom’s brain when she sees her baby smile. The researchers monitored the MRI images of 26 women while they looked at photos of babies smiling, crying, or with a neutral facial expression. These images alternated from those of the women’s babies to those of other babies of the same ethnicity, clothing, and position.

    The researchers focused on the changes in the women’s brain activity through the transition in images from their baby to another baby and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

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    The study authors discovered that seeing a baby’s smile brings about activity in a mom’s brain. “When first-time mothers see their own baby’s face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs,” the researchers wrote, as Medium reports.

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    To be specific, when a mom sees her little one smile or cry, the areas of her brain that prompt her to act — whether to comfort, care for, or play with her baby — are stimulated.

    Furthermore, the researchers found that the reward-related regions of a mom’s brain were activated when they looked at babies with happy expressions. These regions of the brain are the same areas that release dopamine, also known as the “pleasure chemical.” Medium explains that other activities that can bring about dopamine surges include eating chocolate and having sex. In other words, seeing your baby smile could be as powerful and profound as those experiences!

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    Aurelie Athan, Ph.D., director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory, explains that the brain’s reward system “exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby” and promote her “ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy.”

    “A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles,” Athan tells Medium.

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    According to Scientific American, the results of this study put forth the argument that the way a mother behaves is “fundamentally rooted” in the reward areas of the brain. “Positive sensory cues from infants, such as a smiling facial expression, stimulate dopamine release and thus promote responsive maternal care.”

    That said, the study also raises the fact that mothers need to learn how to respond when their babies are in distress as well since babies don’t always smile. Scientific American says, “Studies also show that abusive and neglectful mothers show less empathy and more aversive feelings towards a crying infant when compared with nurturing mothers, suggesting that how a mother reacts to a baby when it’s upset and not smiling is a crucial test of maternal behavior.”

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    So the next time you feel like your heart might explode when you see your baby grin, you know why it also makes you want to take care of her (just make sure you have the same response even when she isn’t in a smiley mood)!

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