Sure, some people complain about how they don't want to see cute babies on their social media feed every two hours. But, c'mon, they can be such a stress reliever with their gummy smiles and how just a photo reminds you of their fresh baby scent, even if it's sometimes citrusy (asim!). And who passes up a chance to squeeze those chubby thighs and wonder at their fluffy folds on their arms or legs. At some point, we've all said, "Ang sarap kagatin!"
Wanting to bite your baby's chubby arms, thighs, hands, and feet is a perfectly reasonable, healthy human behavior. Yes, there's scientific evidence to prove it, and you may even take it as a sign that you're a good parent.
According to a study, a baby's physical features are specifically designed to attract grown-ups to want to take care and love them. Slightly bigger head, large round eyes, chubby cheeks, small chin, and button or narrow nose — these are all geared towards baby survival. Konrad Lorenz, an ethologist (he studies animal's behavioral patterns) has termed these baby features and characteristics as "kindchenschema" or "baby schema."
Baby schema is part of "an evolutionary bonding mechanism and signifies positive emotions and healthy attachment," writes Anne-Marie Gambelin, a mom of two and features writer for Mother.ly.
The study, submitted to the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, used morphing techniques to manipulate photos of babies into the baby schema's "perfect formula for cuteness" and then the opposite as the other set. The participants rated the images based on how much they were motivated to take care of them. Unsurprisingly, high baby schema (or adorable babies) garnered the strongest cuddle vibes and elicited more "protect and care" emotions. The researcher also found via another study that babies are a great source of dopamine or happy hormones.
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So how does biting or "eating" babies relate to this? That's all thanks to the theory of cute aggression or "dimorphous expression." It's "when we feel happiness that is so intense, it manifests as a violent impulse," explained lead researcher Oriana Aragon.
Two studies, published in 2015 in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found that being exposed to too many cute stimuli triggers an aggressive or opposite reaction. The first study used cute baby images, and the resulting feelings of being overwhelmed led them to say they want to pinch the babies' cheeks and "eat them up." It's similar to experiencing tears of joy.
On the other hand, the second study confirmed it's a way parents regulate emotions and relieve stress and get back to normal. "A stressed mama, whether she is upset or overjoyed, might not be the most attentive mama, so nature has built her in a way to even the keel and keep us alert, stable and able to act," Gambelin wrote.
To sum it up: adults are hardwired to care for cute babies. Too much cuteness, however, leads to a desire to "eat them." It's an aggressive response to overwhelming positive feelings. But, when you do release it (like peppering your baby with so many kisses or softly biting your baby's hands and toes), it helps balance out the emotions and reduces stress. That way, you can continue to be good parents who protect and care for their kids. Ahhh, right?