Looking into your baby's eyes. It's one of the sweetest things a new parent can do—and one of the most powerful ways a parent can connect with their baby.
After all, newborns can't speak or even socially smile in those early days but, according to a study, they can certainly communicate with you via those sweet little glances. And the connection that's forged when you make eye contact with your baby is far stronger than we ever imagined.
According to researchers from the University of Cambridge and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, eye contact between a baby and adult causes both parties brain waves to fall into sync. How amazing is that?
And it gets even better: The researchers also believe this mental sync may be the first step towards improved communication between parent and child in adulthood.
Here's how the research team came to this finding. They observed 17 8-month-old babies by utilizing EEG caps, which cover a child's head in electrodes so brain activity can be monitored. The babies then watched videos featuring adults singing nursery rhymes. Some videos featured the adults singing while looking straight at the baby, while others featured the adult looking at the baby with their head turned to a 20-degree angle or looking away from the baby entirely.
They observed this link without the videos as well. The researcher also sat with a group of babies while both adults and infants wore EEG caps to capture glimpses of their brain activities. In both cases, the brain waves between babies and adults synced up when direct eye contact was made. When eyes wandered, this connection seemed to weaken.
The idea that your brain activity and your baby's can actually mirror one another is just mind-blowing (no pun intended!). The research suggests that there's a sort of meeting halfway at work here: Babies' brains adjust to become more like the adults', and vice versa. The researchers believe this phenomenon gives us some greater insight into babies and their abilities to connect with their caregivers.
Researchers aren't quite sure what force is behind this connection, but they also believe that when eye contact is made, babies become more motivated to vocalize as well.
"When the adult and infant are looking at each other, they are signaling their availability and intention to communicate with each other," researcher Victoria Leong says in a news release. "We found that both adult and infant brains respond to a gaze signal by becoming more in sync with their partner. This mechanism could prepare parents and babies to communicate, by synchronising when to speak and when to listen, which would also make learning more effective."
This connection may pay off down the line in really amazing ways. According to ScienceNews, previous research has indicated that when groups of people's brain waves sync up, engagement can increase—and on the flip side, when people reach mutual understandings, their brain waves appear to resemble one another as well. With all that in mind, it stands to reason that this powerful baby/adult connection could pave the way for strong lifelong communication.
As mamas, we know that those still, simple moments with our babies are some of the sweetest. Just snuggling and looking into each other's eyes can feel so powerful. Even if no words are exchanged, that bond you're creating just feels overwhelmingly real. And if this research is any indication, it isn't just in our imaginations: Those sweet moments are actually bringing us and our babies closer in ways that will continue to fuel the parent/child relationship down the line.
So remember: Those times you opted to neglect the laundry or the dishes in favor of just looking at the miracle you created? Those moments were more powerful than you even realized, mama.