There is no stronger bond than one between Mother and child. This has to do mostly with the sense of smell and the release of pheromones. Pheromones are molecules that are used in the human and animal world for a multitude of reasons; non verbal communication, maternal bonding, mating, territory marking, and more! Mother and baby can identify each other by scent alone. They use these pheromones to create a lifelong bong, making it a physical, as well as an emotional connection.
The bond starts in utero as babies begin to recognize their mothers pheromones. While in the coziness of the womb babies start to communicate to the Mother using pheromones, which is basically chemical codes. These chemical links are present after birth, so mother and baby recognize each other and baby can begin breastfeeding. A baby will basically sniff out their Mothers breast so they can start feeding. This is done by pheromones and Montgomery glands. At six days, although some say earlier, a baby will learn and become partial to their Mothers milk. They are able to pick it out among other women's milk, as well as discriminate the difference between their mothers breast and another woman, based on scent alone. Animals use pheromones in breastfeeding as well. A Mother rat will instinctually lick herself as a way for her blind babies to find their way to food. This is why its imperative pheromones are learned.
When a baby nurses they are exposed to their Mothers pheromones through many glands around the breast and underarms. These glands secrete, mixing with bacteria that is living on the skin and creates a persons unique smell. When males are born and come in contact with their mothers pheromones their bodies begin to release Gonadotropin (hormone), which causes a surge of the LH (hormone that affects function of sex organs). This surge helps a male baby pump out testosterone which further masculinizes the brain by breaking down nerve cells and creating male circuits. So, the pheromones are essentially creating humans as distinctively male or female. Breastfeeding can also influence what a child will look for in a future mate. A study found that when rats were nursed with the presence of a lemon scent, they then looked for mates that carried a similar scent. Showing that exposure to odors early in life produces life long preferences for those odors.
Pheromones also benefit the Mother! Mothers will nuzzle their noses into their babies head, picking up their sweet scent, releasing oxytocin (cuddle hormone). When a baby cries, the Mothers body will release oxytocin causing her nipples to erect so she can pass milk easily. Making the mother want to nurse just as much as the baby wants to feed.
The sense of taste is another chemical sense that is present at birth. There are 5 primary tastes. Sweet, Salty, Bitter. Sour and Umami. Upon birth babies can taste everything but salty. It is believed that the salty taste doesn't come in until 4 months, once the kidneys have fully developed. A newborns favorite taste is sweet. When babies are given a sugar substance immediately after a shot or small procedure they tend to cry less. There are many amino acids found in breastmilk with the strongest, being glutamate, at over 50%. Its presence in breastmilk helps the newborn like the Umami taste.
Culture also plays a role in babies sense of taste. Flavors of food eaten by the Mother get translated into the amniotic fluid, which the baby ingests in utero. When the baby is nursing these flavors are also passed through the milk. The flavor of breastmilk is directly effected by the foods, spices and beverages the Mother has consumed. Amniotic fluid and breast milk are similar in their taste profiles which may bridge the experience of a baby transitioning to solid foods. Smell and taste go hand in hand. If you have a baby who can experience complex tastes, like the difference between apples and pears, then chances are they have a well developed sense of smell.
There are millions and million of connections that are being made in infancy. Those connections truly do shape us for the rest of our lives. If a pregnant or breastfeed Mother eats different food, tries different flavors, this can set the stage of child and adult preferences when it comes to eating. In the same way that our Mothers scent influences us when we choose mates. Isn't it amazing?
Ansley has been teaching Infant Movement classes since 2013, after studying Developmental Movement with Ellynne Skove. Since completing her training Ansley has taught all over the New York, New Jersey, Boston and now Florida. Ansley is certified in Level 1 Reiki and has completed her 200hr YT. She is passionate about empowering, nurturing and providing care to all families as they encounter the demands and joys of parenthood. Through her work she is able to soulfully fulfil her greatest ambition; to care for others.