BY COLLEEN HURLEY RD,

Any study on child development has one common thread: a healthy bond between parent and baby leads to a well-adjusted child and teenager. Upon giving birth, parents are obviously bonded with the child for life in terms of being a mother and father. Bonding, in a more esoteric sense, is really a sense of trust and closeness your baby feels towards you and visa-versa.

The bond between a mother and her baby is a very powerful connection, and one that is actually critical for a baby’s healthy development. This bond provides a wealth of innate responses, like baby immediately knowing his mom’s voice, and mom’s uncanny ability to sense his needs. A recent study found that this bond may go even deeper than intuition.

Simply by looking and smiling at each other, moms and babies synchronize their heartbeats to within milliseconds of each other; according to researchers Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Previous animal studies found that social interaction between “attachment partners” can actually affect the animal infant’s body, but this is the first time for observation of this effect in humans.

Researchers found that visible affection from moms had measurable physiologic effects on three month old babies. Cardiac output was obtained while mothers and their three month old babies were observed during face-to-face interactions. Behaviorally, the pairs expressed episodes of vocal, gaze, and affect synchrony. Interestingly, time-series analysis showed that mum and baby coordinate heart rhythms in less than a second.

The coordination between mother and baby’s biological rhythms increased during moments of affect and vocal synchrony compared to nonsynchronous moments. Just like other mammals, humans can impact the physiological processes of the attachment partner through visual-affective social cues.

Humans are a few steps ahead of other mammals when it comes to synchronizing with their offspring. A mother need only look at her baby lovingly for their heartbeats to synchronize, whereas other animals need physical contact for this phenomenon to occur. No news yet if this same synchronicity works for babies and other people, like dads, so more research is needed. Until then, it is nice to know that the tiny heartbeat you once heard in your belly is beating the same pattern as yours when you are near.

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