I went to Woolworths today and was amazed by the feeling of celebration that was taking over. Outside, the pillars of Sebele had been decorated with pink and red balloons.
As I entered Woolies there was a flurry of activity around the flower section, which had – like the grinch’s heart – grown three sizes today, and I witnessed a steady stream of men and women buying boxes of chocolates for loved ones.
Whether you were one of the folks I saw preparing to celebrate your Valentine or not, it’s good to take a day and look at the power that love has.
Love contributes to our health as individuals and within society, our ability to bond with our children at birth, and influences our parenting choices.
Health Benefits of Love in Adults
With love, comes happiness. A study conducted by scientists at Michigan State University found that married people were, in the long run, more likely to be happier than their singleton counterparts. The marriage itself may not have made people happier, but it did protect people from declining happiness levels often experienced in adulthood.
Another study speaks to the value of oxytocin, that ‘feel good’ hormone that we know is so good during labour. Well, people who receive more frequent hugs, cuddles, and bonding time from their family experience the highest level of oxytocin. Oxytocin not only feels good, but is said to be helpful in lowering blood pressure.
Love can even help you from catching the dreaded flu. Various studies have shown that the presence of love, affection and compassion calms people down as the body releases natural antibodies which can help protect against disease.
Social Love Amongst Adults
Not only are romantic relationships beneficial to your health, but good friends and caring social relationships will help in your holistic wellbeing. That’s why it’s so important to find your tribe or community of likeminded friends. (CUPPA LOVE at SensoBaby is a good place to start looking).
I adore seeing the friendships that have formed between mums attending SensoBaby classes; it gives me tingles up the spine and a feeling of fulfilment. To me there’s nothing as rewarding as seeing parents with children of like ages bond and support each other over good times and bad. This is a form of love, even if it’s not a traditional one.
Correction: the only other thing as rewarding as witnessing the sisterhood of motherhood is seeing women bond with their babies and come into their power as mothers.
Becoming a Loving Mother
I didn’t know that I would fall in love at first sight when each of my own two babies were born. The pure bliss that I felt when my babies drifted off to sleep on my chest was amazing.
But I’ve talked with enough mothers to know that not everyone feels this way. Not every mother feels connected to their baby right away. Some are exhausted and feel the weight of the world on them as they try to help their child learn how to sleep, how to nurse, and how to understand the new world around them.
We need to remember that being born is an overwhelming experience for babies. They’ve just left the most soothing environment ever, and the outside world can seem louder, different, and generally upsetting. This can contribute to a fussy baby and make bonding with the infant a strained experience for mum.
So what’s the solution? Time. It can be hard to adjust to the feeling that your new infant needs you 24/7, but in the early days you need to commit to getting to know each other. The other solution is to remember that you are exactly what your baby needs, and you have every power within you to love and care for your baby.
How to Feel Love For Your Young Baby
Fortunately we’re hardwired to love our children. So whether you felt that immediate bond or not, here are the key components needed to strengthen the bond between you and your baby:
Touch: skin is the body’s largest organ, so it’s no wonder that it’s important. Any kind of positive loving touch is good as it gets the oxytocin flowing. They say a 6-second hug is ideal, so grab your little one and give them a good cuddle for a count of 6. In the early days, skin-to-skin and baby massage will help to stimulate the feel-good hormones in both you and your baby.
Talk: Many mothers struggle with what to say. “I feel so bad… I can go the whole day without saying anything, it’s almost as though I’ve forgotten she’s there.” The easy win is to talk to your baby about anything and everything by sportscasting your day. “I’m going to make a cup of tea now. I’ll start by filling the kettle and turning it on. There. That won’t take long. Now let’s get my favourite mug…” As you do this your baby’s understanding of language will develop. And your voice is the sweetest music to your baby’s little ears.
Make Eye Contact: just like how love develops between adults, eyes contact is an important. Looking into your baby’s eyes boosts positive communication and mutual understanding. Soon you’ll be able to tell by the look in her eyes how she’s feeling, and vice versa.
Remember eye contact as your child grows up, and consider that your eyes communicate even before your voice does. If your toddler is in a tantrum and you’re losing your patience, your eyes will show it. Take a deep breath and soften your gaze before looking at your child to avoid putting your stress on them.
Reinforcing The Bond With Your Older Child
From the very beginning, your love for your kids affects how they develop. The hippocampus region of a child’s brain grows when they are feeling nurtured. This part of the brain controls how kids learn, how much they can remember, and how they handle stress.
We want our kids to be wildly successful adults. To help, we take them to all the SensoBaby classes, get them into the best private schools, and learn about the right way to positively disciple them.
In the end, though, the thing that matters most is love.
It’s not hard to kiss a cute baby or hug an adorable toddler. But it’s hard to remain patient, supportive and consistent for the long haul. I’ve got a three year old and a baby who’s quickly approaching 2, so I know firsthand the battles these ages bring (and hope to be through them in the next 18 years or so!)
For starters, rather than losing your cool at tough times, what I’ve learned from other mums in our community (ahem: Caroline) is to try playing games. If you want your toddler to stand still, don’t tell him to stand still… tell him to pretend that he’s guarding a magical chocolate castle.
We try lots of different things with our children. Different strategies for them to behave, to be strong on their own, to have self-esteem. But as long as we love and believe in our kids, they’ll copy us, and they’ll believe in themselves.
Again, it all comes down to love. So try whatever you need to try with your baby, toddler or big kid. As long as you offer them warmth, affection and support, your kids will feel loved and should turn out just fine. It’s something I’ll try to remind myself on the tough days.
While I was at Woolworths, I joined in on the celebrations. I bought token gifts for the kids and a gift for my husband. I doubt they’ll be seen as the most amazing presents of all time, but I’m sure they’ll love the thought and effort I made.