THE NEUROSCIENCE OF CALMING A BABY

Research published in the journal Current Biology shows that infants experience an automatic calming reaction when they are being carried, whether they are mouse pups or human babies.

Kumi Kuroda of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Saitama, Japan says, “From humans to mice, mammalian infants become calm and relaxed when they are carried by their mother.”

Being held in a mother’s arms is the safest place for a baby to be, and the mother can have peace of mind knowing her baby is happy, content, and relaxed. The fact that babies are neurobiologically wired to stop crying when carried is a part of our evolutionary biology that helps our species survive.

This study is the first to show that the infant calming response to carrying is a coordinated set of central, motor, and cardiac regulations that is an evolutionarily preserved aspect of mother-infant interactions. It also helps to have a scientific explanation for the frustration many new parents struggle with — a calm and relaxed infant will often begin crying immediately when he or she is put down.

With my babies, swaddling them created a compact posture and a sense of security that triggered a relaxation response when they were put back down. After massaging them every day for a few weeks, using “Touch Relaxation” (a conditioned response), massage time was another way they relaxed, and their sleep was sooner and more deeply than before.

Kuroda and colleagues determined that the calming response is mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system and a region of the brain called the cerebellum (Latin: little brain). The researchers found that the calming response was dependent on tactile inputs and proprioception. Proprioception is the ability to sense and understand body movements and keep track of your body’s position in space. They also found that the parasympathetic nervous system helped lower heart rate as part of mediating the coordinated response to being carried.

Both human and mouse babies usually calm down and stop moving after they are carried, and mouse pups stop emitting ultrasonic cries.

The idea that the familiar calming dynamic was also playing out in mice occurred to Kuroda one day when she was cleaning the cages of her mouse colony in the laboratory. She says, “When I picked the pups up at the back skin very softly and swiftly as mouse mothers did, they immediately stopped moving and became compact. They appeared relaxed, but not totally floppy, and kept the limbs flexed. This calming response in mice appeared similar to me to soothing by carrying in human babies.”

The cerebellum is always on guard to protect your body from danger and prepare you for ‘fight-or-flight’ by keeping track of everything going on in your environment. Scientists have known for years that the cerebellum is directly linked to a feedback loop with the vagus nerve which keeps heart rate slow and gives you grace under pressure. As adults, we can calm ourselves by practicing mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation which puts the cerebellum at peace and creates a parasympathetic response of well being. This appears to be the same response that occurs in infants when they are being carried.

The only time during the day that the cerebellum is allowed to let down its guard and go offline is during REM sleep when your body is paralyzed to prevent you from acting out your dreams. It makes sense that being picked up and carried would send automatic signals that allow the cerebellum to relax and create healthy vagal tone which would lower heart rates in infants.

The researchers believe that these findings could have broad implications for parenting and contribute to preventing child abuse. “This infant response reduces the maternal burden of carrying and is beneficial for both the mother and the infant,” explains Kuroda. She goes on to say, “Such proper understanding of infants would reduce the frustration of parents and be beneficial because unsoothable crying is a major risk factor for child abuse.”

“A scientific understanding of this infant response will save parents from misreading the restart of crying as the intention of the infant to control the parents, as some parenting theories—such as the ‘cry it out’ type of strategy—suggest,” Kuroda says. “Rather, this phenomenon should be interpreted as a natural consequence of the infant sensorimotor systems.” If parents understand that properly, perhaps they will be less frustrated by the crying, Kuroda says. And that puts those children at lower risk of abuse.

 

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MUSIC AND INFANT MASSAGE

Your voice can be an important part of your baby’s massage. By talking softly, humming, or singing, you create an atmosphere of calm. This verbal communication also helps you keep your mind in the present and your attention on your baby.

Singing is a wonderful way to relax. Sing to your baby anytime–while changing diapers, feeding, rocking, or walking. You will discover there are some songs your baby loves to hear again and again. His sense of musical discrimination will astound you.

Familiar lullabies from your own childhood would fit in beautifully here. Think of your grandmother’s music box that played a Brahms lullaby or the wonderful, lilting “Alouette” you learned in elementary school. Recall how your own mother sang “Go to Sleep, My Baby” to your younger siblings, and do likewise with your baby.

In one study, parents were asked to sing a song of their choice in two ways. First they were asked to sing as they would to their baby, even though the baby was not present. Then the parent would sing the same song to the baby herself. When other adults were asked to listen to these recordings, they could nearly always identify the song that was sung directly to the infant; these versions tended to be sung at a higher pitch, with much more emotional engagement, elongation of vowel sounds, and more slowly. Interestingly, the fathers sang more slowly to their babies than did the mothers.

This study helps confirm my earlier discussion of how babies respond to their parents’ vocalization, when parents unconsciously make it easier for their babies to understand by elongating vowel sounds. So babies actually affect the way parents vocalize; there is a synchrony of interaction that is part of the dance of bonding. Singing is a wonderful way to soothe your baby and capture her attention.

In my book, INFANT MASSAGE: A HANDBOOK FOR LOVING PARENTS, I include some folk lullabies from around the world. I’ve also included a list of books and music that will help you utilize this wonderful tool in your practice of infant massage. In additioin, the International Association of Infant Massage and its American chapter, Infant Massage USA, has an online store in which you can purchase several different renditions of our lullaby, “Ami Tomake Bhalobashi Baby.” See InfantMassageWarehouse.com and AmiTomake.com

 

INFANT MASSAGE: A HANDBOOK FOR LOVING PARENTS – NEW EDITION!

I am happy to announce that the new updated, expanded edition of Infant Massage: a Handbook for Loving Parents has been released by Random House. It is available on Amazon.com and from most bookstores.

CHAPTERS:

  1. Why Massage Your Baby?

  2. Your Baby’s Sensory World

  3. The Importance of Skin Stimulation

  4. Stress and Relaxation

  5. Bonding, Attachment, and Infant Massage

  6. The Elements of Bonding

  7. Attachment and the Benefits of Infant Massage

  8. Especially for Fathers

  9. Helping your Baby (and you) Learn to Relax

  10. Your Baby’s Brain

  11. Music and Massage

  12. Getting Ready

  13. How to Massage Your Baby

  14. Crying, Fussing, and Other Baby Language (including cues, reflexes and behavioral states

  15. Minor Illness and Colic

  16. Your Premature Baby

  17. Your Baby with Special Needs

  18. Your Growing Child and Sibling Bonding through Infant Massage

  19. Your Adopted or Foster Children

  20. A Note to Teen Parents

BACK MATTER INCLUDES:

References and Recommendations

Resources

Author Bio

Breast milk hormones found to impact bacterial development in infants’ guts: Intestinal microbiome of children born to obese mothers significantly different from those born to mothers of healthy weight

Source: Breast milk hormones found to impact bacterial development in infants’ guts: Intestinal microbiome of children born to obese mothers significantly different from those born to mothers of healthy weight

A new University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus study finds that hormones in breast milk may impact the development of healthy bacteria in infants’ guts, potentially protecting them from intestinal inflammation, obesity and other diseases later in life.

Bonding With Your Baby

Bonding, the intense attachment that develops between you and your baby, is completely natural. And it’s probably one of the most pleasurable aspects of infant care.

Source: Bonding With Your Baby

Bonding is the intense attachment that develops between parents and their baby. It makes parents want to shower their baby with love and affection and to protect and care for their little one. Bonding gets parents up in the middle of the night to feed their hungry baby and makes them attentive to the baby’s wide range of cries.

Scientists are still learning a lot about bonding. They know that the strong ties between parents and their child provide the baby’s first model for intimate relationships and foster a sense of security and positive self-esteem. And parents’ responsiveness to an infant’s signals can affect the child’s social and cognitive development.

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My mom spoils me and my hippocampus grows

Published 01/18/2016 · Category Babies and Children

A study at the University of Washington concluded that children who received more support from their parents had a greater development of the brain region linked with memory and emotions.

By Pedro Lipcovich

My mom spoils me Research published today adds a strong argument for the notion that the brain structures, far from being only determined by biology, constitute the links established throughout life, beginning with early childhood. The study, conducted at the University of Washington, is called “the maternal support in early childhood predicts larger volumes of the hippocampus in school age” and was divided into two sections separated by several years. The first part consisted of an ingenious test to assess the degree of support that the mother or father could give children three to five years in an everyday situation. The second part consisted of applying those kids, and at school age, an MRI to measure the size of the hippocampus, linked to memory and emotion structure: it turned out, the guys who had better maternal support, that part brain had achieved greater weight and volume.

The work is published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, and is signed by a team from the Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine at Washington University in Saint Louis, led by Joan Luby. The first part of the test was made several years ago with boys who were between three and five years. In a research laboratory behavior, were tested in the company of a parent, usually the mother, the boy handed him a gift, wrapped in gift paper, but with the slogan wait eight minutes before opening; mother, meanwhile, had to complete a written questionnaire. The test sought to establish, according to predetermined standards, to what extent support the mother gave the boy in the situation, relatively stressful to wait before opening the gift. The fact that the mother had to turn a task, completing questionnaires, sought to reproduce the structure of an everyday situation in which the mother or caregiver the boy must perform tasks while addresses contain the anxieties of the child. The greater or lesser maternal support was recorded on a scale score, and what was established at that time was the correlation between lower maternal support and an increased risk of depression in children.

The second phase of the research was conducted on 92 children, when they were between 7 and 13 years and was to determine, using MRI, the size of a brain structure called the hippocampus. The result was that in the boys-in testing had shown the preescolar- receive sufficient maternal support, the size of the hippocampus was 10 percent higher than in children who had not received that support. The article notes that the hippocampus “is a central region for memory, emotion regulation and maturation of stress, key areas for healthy social adaptation.” The hippocampus is the only place in the brain in which over a lifetime develop new neurons (last Friday, Pagina / 12 reported on recent work by researchers at the Leloir Institute CONICET).

Joan Luby, director of research at the University of Washington, said that “for years, studies highlighted the importance of early care for the proper development of children, but generally limited to factors such as school performance: study it is the first to show an anatomical change in the brain in relation to the importance of early parental action. “

Mariela Terzaghi, head of Neurology Noel H. Sbarra Hospital of La Plata, said that this research “is part of a series of works that break with the idea of a unique genetic determination for the brain, making place to the influence of aspects between which it should also include the historical, social and cultural conditions of parenting. However, larger hippocampal not necessarily better function, and should not assume that issues explain the mind from brain locations. “

Sergio Rodriguez -coautor Crossings between psychoanalysis and neurobiology said the report from the University of Washington “concerning the logic of research on neurotic depression, where the decreasing depression coincides with increased activity in the hippocampus and the cingulate core brain “.

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