It's a natural instinct for new mommies to comfort their babies every time their progeny starts crying. But despite cradling the young 'un in their arms and singing lullabyes, studies have discovered a more inexplicable disconnect between mother and child in nearly half the cases researched. One particular finding discovered that 40 percent of babies actually experience insecurity with their moms.
That figure was arrived at after a joint venture involving universities in Missouri, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, in which the project examined 127 mothers and babies selected from a wide cross-section of ethnic groups and income levels. They also warned that those poor attachments are also linked to the greater likelihood that children will experience social problems while growing up.
In many cases, babies developed "insecure-avoidance attachments," a term given to babies who seldom expressed negative emotions such as crying, and tended to avoid a mother while stressed, afraid, or bewildered. In other cases in the 40-percent group, babies were so emotionally overwhelmed, mothers were unable to console them.
One crucial element that could mitigate these vulnerable attachments, according to researchers, was heart rate. Tests demonstrated that when maternal heart rates were lower than usual each time a baby needed comforting, that sent a message to the distressed infant that the mother was emotionally neutral and indifferent to the newborn's needs. In turn, that reaction manifested into a more resistant infant by the time the child reached its first birthday.
The report recommended that mothers should relax and take a few breaths before soothing the child in order to maintain a regular heart rate. Positive facial expressions on behalf of the mother were also suggested.
The results were consistent with a Princeton study conducted four years earlier. In that program, psychologists studied 14,000 children and also determined that 40 percent of children lacked secure attachments to their mothers. They attributed that result to overwhelmed parents trying to comfort their babies, which inadvertently sent signals to the infant that their environment wasn't safe, thus leading them to be more withdrawn in their responses. It was also determined that the behavior would likely lead to poor development of language skills and other aspects of cognitive development.