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The Missing Piece: Consciousness and the MotherBaby Bond

Written by Tracy Wilson Peters, CCCE, CLD, and Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CCCE   
Thursday, 01 September 2011 00:00
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The Missing Piece: Consciousness and the MotherBaby Bond
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Most information pregnant families access today is designed to prepare the family for childbirth and early parenting—detailing such things as nutrition, hazards to avoid, the anatomy and physiology of pregnancy and birth, breathing techniques, medications and medical interventions. Unfortunately, the most essential of all preparation, the awareness of the mind-body-spirit “motherbaby” bond, is rarely addressed. Cutting-edge research indicates that the experience in the womb and the early moments of birth and infancy are the most formative moments in our lives. These quantum moments shape all we become. Unfortunately, many professionals who work with families do not yet realize the significance of the motherbaby bond. In fact, the concept of bonding with the baby is rarely mentioned except for the postpartum and early infancy stages.

With today’s increasing rates of medical intervention, cesarean birth, postpartum mood disorders, and the overall atmosphere of unconscious parenting, it is obvious that a missing piece of critical information isn’t being communicated to families. This missing piece is the motherbaby bond. In this technology-obsessed world of ours, it is easy for mothers to forget that the most important knowledge comes from within. In our society, it is rare for us to listen to our body’s cues and respond accordingly. How many pregnant mothers nap during the day when they are tired or get regular chiropractic adjustments for overall balance and function? We avoid listening to our bodies because we feel rushed, and don’t honor their signals as actual communication. The pregnant body is communicating what it needs all the time, and, believe it or not, the unborn baby is, too. All we have to do as mothers is learn to listen, give ourselves the permission to trust the connection, and take the time to respond.

How Does the MotherBaby Bond Work?

Nature is impressive in its design and prepares babies in the womb for the new world they will encounter at birth. Since each baby is born into a distinctly different environment, he must adapt quickly in the womb in order to survive and thrive at birth. The information a baby receives in utero teaches him to adapt to his new world. A mother is constantly communicating about her world to her baby throughout pregnancy, via special messenger molecules. The baby, interestingly, communicates back to his mother through the placenta with his own set of messenger molecules. Mom and baby are sharing information during each and every moment of pregnancy. This sharing is how the motherbaby bond begins.

Mother and baby communicate by way of the placenta, using components such as hormones and neuropeptides. There are specific neuropeptides that are molecules of emotion, which communicate a mother’s feelings to her baby. When a mother has a thought, a “feeling” or emotion pulses through her body. These pulses are messenger molecules that deliver signals to the body’s systems. For example, if a mother smells something burning, she is likely to experience worry or fear. Her body starts to release hormones, such as adrenaline and other catecholamines, to pump blood to her limbs so she can get ready to move quickly and get her baby to safety. Her perception of the world (smelling smoke) creates a thought (“I smell smoke”) and emotion (worry/fear), which then signals her body to prepare to get out fast (blood pumping to her arms and legs).

This unique and remarkable communication between mother and baby is how the baby’s emotional intelligence is created. He experiences the world of emotions through his mother, and begins to become aware of life based on how his mother feels about her world. When she has a loving thought, he experiences love. When she feels joyful, he encounters joy, and so on. It’s an amazing process designed to give babies the opportunity to experience a kaleidoscope of emotions and develop a healthy emotional life that matches the emotional tone of his new family. This emotional tone becomes his way of coping with his world, known as EQ, or emotional quotient. Current research shows that a healthy EQ is much more important for long-term happiness and success in adults than a high IQ.

If all mothers knew this, we would likely spend more time doing things we loved and activities that reduced our stress instead of focusing on less important tasks like worrying over where to register for baby goods. Neonatologist Dr. Frederick Wirth referred to this as being a “brain architect.” He knew that focusing on creating a healthy, happy baby in the womb led to happier, healthier children and families. Mothers should be excited to learn we have this power—the power to build our babies’ brains.

As we wrote in our book, The Greatest Pregnancy Ever: The Keys to the MotherBaby Bond, “Every orchestra has specific instruments and musicians, but you, the mother, are the conductor. You are writing your own symphony, you choose the music and the notes. If something is out of tune, you can change the music. You create the harmony. You are the maestro.”