The mom-child connection is a term commonly used but often misunderstood. We know the bond between a mother and child is important, but this deep-seated bond goes far beyond pregnancy and the short period after birth.
The ancient systems of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, along with Western medicine, have recognized five key areas of focus for optimal mother and child health, stemming from physiological, emotional, mental, and environmental connections.
Chinese medicine stresses that a mother and her child must be treated as one unit and that this unit acts as a foundation of health – for the family, the community, and the planet. A healthy mom-child connection creates a ripple effect, and it begins with a respected, nurtured, and well-understood bond from the period of preconception.
Preconception refers to the time leading up to conception and is often prepared for by considering finances, careers, and other logistical factors. While these aspects are important for the emotional and mental health of the mother and child, maternal health in the preconception period has a profound impact on the future mother-child bond.
Women with high levels of chronic stress, poor air quality, exposure to environmental toxins and certain medications, and chronic inflammation have a higher risk of preterm deliveries, low birth weight babies, and babies who develop low social and communication skills.1
Increased focus and more education on this critical time in a mother’s life sets the stage for a healthy pregnancy and a solid mom-child connection throughout life.
A pivotal moment in developing the mom-child connection is between 18 and 25 weeks, which is around the time most mothers feel their baby move. This exciting period helps the bond become less abstract, as the baby begins to communicate with the mother.
During the seventh month, many mothers begin to feel a greater sense of attachment, and science backs this up. Fetal cells are passing into the mother’s bloodstream and implanting into tissues, essentially becoming a part of the mother, just as much as the mother is becoming a part of her child. At 32 weeks, most babies will start to recognize their mother’s voice, language, and vowel sounds. Talking to and interacting with the developing child can help strengthen the mom-child bond.
Everything from brain development, to learning and focus, to overall health and the ability to thrive is connected to pregnancy and birth. Nutrition, rest, and hydration during pregnancy are essential to ensure blood pressure and hormones remain stable to avoid early term births.
The 12 weeks after birth are officially considered the postpartum period. Studies show that 10-15% of women experience postpartum depression, and lack of understanding around hormonal changes and the importance of emotional support largely contributes to this reality.2 This critical phase plays a major role in developing a solid mom-child attachment.
Chinese medicine describes concepts like postnatal depletion and the importance of nurturing mothers during this period. Many women in modern-day societies are rushed back to work or lack the physical and emotional support they need around the house, which can easily lead to low moods and insecure mom-child attachments.
If you’re wanting to develop an ideal balance of Eastern and Western medicines, the following five areas are essential for developing a solid mom-child connection.
Our thoughts and emotions are recorded in the body’s DNA, particularly in mitochondrial DNA. This DNA passes from generation to generation through the mother. For example, if your mother or grandmother suffered from low moods, this could be transposed generation after generation unless conscious work occurs to change the pattern. A nurturing environment for the mother and child during pregnancy and beyond is key for supporting a healthy emotional environment for both.
Negative emotional patterns can also be passed down from mother to child, much like how negative thought patterns can be inherited. Chinese medicine discusses a transfer of energy and an essence that either supports or inhibits a child’s health. For both new and older mothers, understanding thought patterns and being surrounded by those committed to offering support can determine the success of future generations.
Food is medicine and information for every cell in the body, and a healthy diet is even more important for mothers before, during, and after pregnancy. In Chinese medicine, foods for conception, pregnancy, and postpartum are all about building energy and providing the sustenance to create a new life. Emphasis is put on warm foods like soups and broths, plenty of protein, iron, and B vitamin-rich foods. Liver, kidney, and other organ meats can be a great option for replenishing iron.
An increasing number of studies are revealing the link between overall health and the gut microbiome.3 Equally important for the health of mother and baby, dietary support during pregnancy and postpartum might include digestive enzymes to ensure proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, broths with collagen, probiotics, and glutamine.
Toxicity is a great concern today, especially when it comes to the health of a mother and her baby. It’s extremely important to look at food sourcing, body care products, makeup, home cleaning products, water, and air quality.
While it’s not always possible to control exposure to all of these toxins, taking measures to buy organic foods and research the products you use can make a big difference. Use EWG’s cosmetic database and Dirty Dozen list to learn more about reducing your exposure to toxins.
A mother’s emotions, thought patterns, diet, gut health, and toxicity exposure influence not only the health of the mother, but the health of her children and her children’s children as well. Supporting a strong mom-child connection from preconception through birth and beyond is fundamental for the health of the family and every human on earth.
By Dr. Taz
1 Kock, K., Kock, F., Klein, K., Bancher-Todesca, D., & Helmer, H. (2010). Diabetes mellitus and the risk of preterm birth with regard to the risk of spontaneous preterm birth. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, 23(9), 1004-8. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20059440.
2 Anokye, R., Acheampong, E., Budu-Ainooson, A., Obeng, E.I., & Akwasi, A.G. (2018). Prevalence of postpartum depression and interventions utilized for its management. Annals of General Psychiatry, 17:18. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5941764/.
3 Mohajeri, M.H., Brummer, R.J.M., Rastall, R.A., Weersma, R.K., Harmsen, H.J.M., Faas, M., & Eggersdorfer, M. (2018). The role of the microbiome for human health: From basic science to clinical applications. European Journal of Nutrition, 57, 1-14. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5962619/.
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