How the Chemnistry of Smell and Touch Develops Human’s Capacity for Harmony

How the Chemnistry of Smell and Touch Develops Human’s Capacity for Harmony

“The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.”

–Erich Fromm

Most parents are aware of the importance of successful bonding between mother and child. The complex combination of scent, sound, hormonal secretions, heartbeat, and skin-to-skin contact all serve to create and reinforce that bond just moments after a baby is born. While those moments are important, just as important are the days, months, and years that follow. That’s why so many studies about bonding between mother and child have been conducted that it has become a science.

The Importance of Scent in Bonding Between Mother and Child

It is a science that consists of many sciences, including chemistry. For example, pheromones are the chemicals that physically attract humans to one another. Well, babies fairly ooze those pheromones, which is part of the reason that so many people find them irresistible. Most people don’t think much about the role of their sense of smell in their lives. Modern media focuses primarily on the senses of sight and sound. However, advertisers recognizing the power of scent were quick to take advantage of scratch and sniff technology, which is used to increases the sale of expensive perfumes.

The importance of scent in the process of bonding between mother and child was demonstrated by a scientific study. After spending just ten minutes with their newborn infants, 90 percent of mothers were able to correctly identify their newborns by scent alone. After spending an hour with their babies, 100 percent of them were able to distinguish their own babies’ scent from the scent of other babies.

The Importance of Touch in Bonding Between Mother and Child

Dr. Deepak Chopra, an endocrinologist and best-selling author of more than 80 books on topics of human well-being, says that successful bonding between mother and child can help prevent diseases by boosting immunity and even contribute to a higher I.Q. An important part of that bonding is the element of human touch. His assertion has been reinforced by several scientific studies.

In a study at Ohio State University, it was demonstrated that cuddling produces chemical changes in the body that can reduce the negative effects of common environmentally caused medical conditions. In this case, cuddling protected the rabbits against some of the physical consequences of high cholesterol diets, like clogged arteries.
Science leaves no doubt about the power of human touch. Another study that was published in Pediatrics magazine found that premature babies who were frequently touched and stroked gained almost 50 percent more weight than those who weren’t. In addition to promoting bonding between mother and child, skin-to-skin contact has been proven to provide a number of other health benefits. It can even regulate a baby’s temperature, because a mother’s breasts automatically adjust temperature, heating up or cooling down according to the baby’s needs.

Physical affection also releases hormones that activate specific genes that help reduce the physical effects of stress. Babies, being helpless to exert any control over their own environments, are especially sensitive to stress. They are quite literally little more than a bundle of nerves responding to a series of unfamiliar physical and environmental stimuli. They depend on adults to provide warmth, relieve their hunger, and soothe their fears.

Obstacles to Successful Bonding

Despite a wealth of scientific evidence that demonstrates the importance of the bonding process, there are a number of obstacles that can interfere. One of those obstacles is a family history in which a mother has not successfully bonded with her own mother. This may have been as a result of neglect or abuse. According to statistics, childhood trauma greatly increases the risk for a number of diseases later in life. Traumas associated with abuse or neglect often result in former victims repeating that behavior themselves.

A link between poverty and stress has been firmly established by the scientific community. Further, a link between stress and mental and emotional illnesses that often lead to child abuse and neglect has also been established. Unfortunately, due to current economic and social policies the number of mothers and children living in poverty world-wide continues to grow.

Popular comedian John Oliver addresses the very serious issue of social conditions that often interfere with successful bonding between mother and child. Although some may find his language offensive, most find the social phenomenon he describes even more so. All the scientific knowledge about the physical, mental, emotional and social benefits of bonding will be of greater value when social policies enable parents to fully utilize it.

bonding between mother and child

December 30,2016  |

chemnistry between mother and child

Reproductive Chemistry: How Parenthood Provides a Natural High

“When two people are in love or when a mother is bonding with her baby, all of the elements of mother-infant bond are mediated through biology: “the smell, the skin-to-skin contact, the facial expressions, eye movements, body language, the kissing, the cooing, the cuddling, the tone of the mother’s voice, the baby talk. This is all part of the orchestration of bonding between the mother and the baby.”

–Dr. Deepak Chopra

The Importance of Oxytocin in the Chemnistry Between Mother and Child

The maternal bond is a complex one, consisting of more than just chemnistry between mother and child. Chemistry, in its most literal sense, is just one of the many components used by nature to build this important life-sustaining relationship. One of the most powerful chemicals at work during the bonding process between mother and child is oxytocin. Oxytocin, sometimes called the love hormone, is credited for making monogamy and trust between friends possible as well as helping to create positive chemnistry between mother and child.

A research study of 62 pregnant women showed that mothers who had higher levels of oxytocin in their systems during the first trimester of pregnancy demonstrated more bonding behaviors such as gaze, touch, and baby talk after the child was born. The good news is that oxytocin is a gift that keeps on giving because touch is one of the things that causes and increase in the body’s production of the hormone. Higher levels during pregnancy results in mothers touching their infants more, which in turn increases production during infancy. Conversely, other studies have shown that women suffering post-partum depression have low levels of oxytocin.

Oxytocin begins to be released by elevated levels of estrogen during pregnancy. Even a mother’s sense of smell, as well as that of her newborn, is affected by it, allowing them to recognize one another’s scent. This scent recognition is part of the process of imprinting and helps the baby find the mother’s nipple.

One of the wonderful qualities of oxytocin is that it is transferred back and forth between mother and child. Many studies have demonstrated that oxytocin controls the part of the baby’s brain that handles stress, and helps promote secure attachment. The quality of that attachment continues to play a part in an individual’s ability to handle stress throughout the rest of their lives.

If oxytocin levels are too low, stress results in elevated levels of cortisol, which can cause changes in brain structure in response to stress that can lead to symptoms such as high blood pressure. New fathers also have elevated levels of oxytocin, which increases according to the amount of physical contact he has with the baby

The Role of Prolactin and Opioids in the Chemnistry Between Mother and Child

Prolactin is another important element in the chemnistry between mother and child. During sleep, it maintains immune function and maintains reproductive organs, including the release of milk in the mother’s breasts. Additionally, it has a relaxing effect. Like oxytocin, elevated levels are found in both mother and father. When levels of prolactin are elevated for a prolonged period, it stimulates the production of natural opioids. These opioids produce a pleasurable sensation and further strengthen the bonding process.

Many parents report feelings of withdrawal when away from their infants, and part of that has a basis in chemical reality. Finally, breastfeeding also produces dopamine and norepinephrine, a by-product of it. Those chemicals produce the alert energy necessary to function despite the lack of sleep caused by an infant’s need of frequent care and feeding. Norepinephrine also reduces the baby’s stress, which creates a state most advantageous to learning.

Through nature’s chemistry, coupled with physical contact, voice, and facial expressions, the baby is able to determine the safety of its environment by perceiving its mother’s emotional states.

Better Living through Natural Chemistry

One of the most positive results of the research on the chemistry between mother and child has been the change in hospital policies that resulted from the realization of the importance of touch in triggering these important chemical reactions. Hospitals now encourage mothers to touch their infants born prematurely. An article by PBS points to a study led by neuroscientist Amir Lahav, from Harvard Medical School, which concluded that in addition to touch, even exposing premature babies to recordings of their mother’s voice and heartbeat improves functioning in the auditory cortex portion of their brains.

The chemistry between mother and child is a beautifully complex symphony orchestrated by nature to continue the cycle of life and increase the joy of living. Part of its beauty is that it is set into motion by the desire for human connection and conducted by its realization.

Yashoda & Infant Krishna, Chola period, early 12thC, India, Credit line Purchase, Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, in honor of Cynthia Hazen and Leon B.
Yashoda & Infant Krishna, Chola period, early 12thC, India, Credit line Purchase, Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, in honor of Cynthia Hazen and Leon B.

December 30,2015  |