You would think the mother-child bond would come naturally and easily.
Struggling to bond should be the exception rather than the rule.
Unfortunately, research shows more than 4 out of 10 children lack a secure attachment or bond with their parents.
We know early interaction with infants not only improves bonding, it also improves learning and communication.
Mothers And Babies Synchronise Brainwaves When Making Eye Contact
New research now shows why that might be the case. Scientists have discovered when babies make eye contact with their mothers, the pair’s brainwaves become synchronised.
This doesn’t mean scientists have discovered telepathy (wouldn’t that be great?) but it means early and frequent interaction between mothers and babies positively affects the brain.
What Does It Mean When Brainwaves Are Synchronised?
Synchronising brainwaves isn’t limited to bonding between a mother and baby. It can play a role in all interpersonal relationships, including those between several individuals
When students, for example, show similar interests during learning, or when we hold a conversation with someone, our brainwaves become synced.
Our brains are constantly firing electrical impulses known as brainwaves. When brainwaves are synchronised, it means our brains are sending these rapid electrical impulses in the same way as the brains of the other people we’re interacting with.
Synchronising brainwaves can improve our reception of the language we’re hearing.
What’s Unique About The Mother And Baby Pair Synchronising?
Compared with other species, human infants have a rather underdeveloped brain at the time of birth.
Rapid growth occurs within the first few years of life, but we know it doesn’t always mimic an adult brain. This is why children behave and learn quite differently from adults.
Researchers wanted to find out whether infants’ brains were able to synchronise in the same way as adult brains. What better pair to evaluate than a mother and baby?
How Do Mothers And Babies Synchronise?
Previous research has shown babies synchronise their heart rate and even their emotions when they interact with their primary caregivers.
These physiological processes could be protective in nature: babies who room share during the first 6 months, for example, have a lower risk of SIDS. They also help to facilitate a mother-child bond.
We’re not absolutely certain how and why we synchronise our normal physiological processes with those near us, but it seems human beings are designed to have deep interpersonal interactions. Our communication processes go deep into our biology.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge studied the brainwaves of 36 infants and found their brainwaves synced with those of an adult when communication was combined with eye contact. Their research was published in the journal PNAS.
What Are The Benefit of Brainwaves Synchronising?
As mentioned earlier, early and frequent interaction during infancy has a positive impact on learning and a secure child-parent attachment.
Given that 40% of children lack a proper attachment, understanding the importance of early and frequent interaction is vital to our society as a whole. A lack of attachment during childhood can affect a person’s relationships, and the ability to communicate effectively later in life.
Although human beings are adaptive, a healthy bond and early interpersonal relationships have a positive influence in their lives.
As someone who experienced an attachment disorder early in life, I recognise the need to be intentional about relationships and bonds, even with my own children. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t experience an attachment disorder, and so bonding and close interpersonal interaction have always come naturally to him.
There are many variables that influence how a child bonds, and learns to communicate. We have the power to control at least some variables by having early and frequent interactions with our children.
Bonding isn’t a once and done experience. You can’t bond in infancy and then follow it up with neglect. A healthy bond, however, tends to protect against neglect. Our early interactions have a massive impact on how the brain develops and functions for the rest of a child’s life.
In the short-term, the researchers at the University of Cambridge found when you talk to your infants and gaze into their eyes, they’re more likely to communicate back, by vocalising.
Previous research also showed pretending to understand their vocalising can actually make infants smarter.
By gazing into your infants’ eyes and pretending to understand them, you’re synchronising their brainwaves with yours. This improves their cognitive development, and helps to establish a secure bond.
Have you ever had a deep conversation with your spouse or dear friend, which included lots of eye contact, and suddenly felt closer to them?
You can do this with your baby. You can feel closer, help her feel close, and improve her receptive language (understanding and processing) and her expressive language (ability to communicate wants or needs). Those skills will benefit her during early education, higher education, employment and relationships.
Do Babies Synchronise With Fathers?
A lot of research focuses on mother-baby pairs. The focus of this study was simply to see whether babies can synchronise their brainwaves in a similar way to synchronising between two adults. This research doesn’t translate only to mother-baby pairs.
The research confirmed babies also synchronise brainwaves with their fathers. That means dads should also start chatting with their babies and gazing into their eyes.
Although research into mother-baby pairs is more extensive, researchers are catching up with father-child pairs.
Research shows that dads interacting with their infants can:
You can learn more about early bonding by reading Why Every Dad Should Have Skin To Skin Time When Baby Is Born.
Early interaction between babies and their parents sets the stage for a healthier life. It’s never too late, but the earlier you begin, the more benefits your baby will reap.