Let's start off with a debate, shall we? Are motherly instincts real or fake? I, in my heart of hearts, believe women have an undeniable maternal instinct not only for their children but for those around them. However, science decided to refute the essence of a mother's "sixth sense," and has actually turned the entire notion on its head.
The Huffington Post explained that Professor Maria Vicedo-Castello concluded that in over 700 entries in Sage Publishing’s Encyclopedia of Motherhood, there was no proof of maternal instincts.
In short, there was no "scientific evidence" that proved a woman's maternal instinct made women "want" to have children, made them more emotionally in-tuned than their children's fathers or that they had a deeper connection to "nurturance" than men.
With science making every mother scratch her own head, we have to wonder why some moms feel so nuttily connected to their child without having to speak the same language, or even having been a mother before. There are some things that just come "naturally" that need an explanation but don't have one. Why do mothers know their child's cry in a room filled with babies? Why does nesting instinctually happen when carrying that little bundle of joy? Regardless of what science says, below are 20 instincts that mothers simply cannot deny.
20 When You Know, You Know
Following suit with a woman's instinct for why their baby is crying, most moms also seem to know when their child isn't feeling well. Granted, you can easily see that a child has a fever, a runny nose, or an ear infection, but there are thousands of women who had a deeper incline that something wasn't quite right with their child; something that adults who aren't the baby's parents could have never identified.
Dr. Victor Shamas, a psychologist at the University of Arizona, studied the premise of a mother's intuition and believes that the connection occurs as soon as the baby is in the womb. "The mother and the child share the same body for nine months.… That’s why the bond is so powerful," Shamas says. "My theory is, when your child is born, your life as an independent entity ends. You now define yourself as someone who is a parent and who is connected to this child."
It's then that a deeper connection and compassion for their child is enhanced.
19 To The Left, To The Left
This has to be one of the more interesting female instincts on the list. According to BabyGaga, 70- to 85% of women "carry their babies on their left side." Baby or no baby, imagine how you would pick up a child. Do you automatically lift and shift to your left side? I know I did!
The baby-themed site explains that by "holding your baby on the left side of your body, you activate the right side of your brain, because of lateralisation."
In easier terms, the right side of the brain is the side that takes care of "emotional cues"; something that is incredibly important in mothers or women who are taking care of babies.
18 Off To Dreamland
Dreams mainly occur during a person's REM cycle. Whether they remember the dream or not is entirely up to the circumstance, but there are some people who achieve their mother's intuition through dreaming.
While the science on what we dream about (and why) is still ongoing, some mothers claim to have moments of instinct while they sleep.
BabyGaga told the story about a woman who couldn't locate her children after moving from Massachusets to Florida. After having no such luck finding the two in her new state, she had a dream that led her to finding her children.
In her dream, Tammy Aronson dreamt her oldest child saying they were in "Indian-something." When she awoke, she remembered that her former in-laws lived in Indian River, Massachusetts. After following her intuition, and calling the police department in Massachusetts, her children were found safe and sound at the home of her ex-in-laws.
17 Lactating Mothers Are Quicker To Protect
It's a woman's choice whether she wants to breastfeed or bottlefeed. Regardless of their decision though, milk is going to fill a woman's breasts whether she plans on using it or not. Furthermore, a woman who does end up breastfeeding seems to have an instinctual moment of all their worries going away. According to BabyGaga, "
When a woman is lactating, her levels of anxiety decrease (although this does get [altered] with PPD and post-partum anxiety). This is because her body produces less corticotropin-releasing hormone or CRH."
It's because of the CRH hormone that leaves us feeling scared or tense, but when a woman is lactating, that hormone isn't produced as much, they're "more ready to protect their children in worrisome situations because they won’t feel as afraid and they won't act scared."
16 Biologically Bonding
We have different bonds with separate people throughout life. My bond with my husband is completely different than my bond with my parents, friends, or pets. Each relationship is altered and has its own unset rules.
But a woman's bond with her child... well, that's not just instinctual — that's biological. Vox explains that when a child is growing in the placenta, nutrients and cells are being migrated back and forth; meaning "an estimated 50% mothers have their children's cells inside them — most often embedded in her skin and organs."
Likewise, it's possible for a mother's cells to be inside her child's as well, which is why the bonding is so natural for mamas.
15 A Lie Is A Lie
How do moms and dads always know when their child is lying?! Now, I'm a very honest person, but that's something I often asked myself when I lied to my parents. Then again, maybe I was just a bad liar.
Regardless of how well a child tells a lie, parents seem to have that six sense for lying. They can read their child's facial expressions and body language better than anyone else.
Even if they're not sure that their child is lying, they know something isn't right, which usually leads to their child spilling the beans before they can get away with anything!
This may seem weird, but a mother's connection to her child is so deep, she knows when and how to burp her child without being told to do so.
A gassy baby is inevitable. They don't realize what a burp is or what 'going to the bathroom' even means yet. This means it's mom's (and dad's) step up to the plate. Knowing each coo and cry, a mom can instinctively tell that their child is uncomfortable and doesn't need to sleep or eat, but burp instead.
Parents explained the two best ways to burp a child is over your shoulder or when they're sitting on your lap. But oddly enough, moms didn't need to be told that. Most automatically brought their baby to one of those positions to burp them softly without even knowing how or when to do so. Freaky, right?
13 The Power To Protect
Have you heard the rumor about a mother being able to physically lift a car if their child was stuck under it? Fueled by adrenaline, a mother's maternal instinct even has rumors surrounding it.
In 2010, Psychology Today wrote an article on the subject, explaining that humans have "two basic kinds of physical ability": gross-motor skills (working large muscles) and fine-motor skills (working small muscles).
While the ability for a 100-pound woman to lift a 3,000-pound car may be far-fetched, the capability a woman endures when in a flight or fight situation is heightened.
"Among the chemicals that the brain releases when under acute stress are two kinds, endocannabinoids, and [...] powerful analgesics. Their painkilling effects override the aching feeling we normally get when we try to lift heavy."
12 A Conversation Without Words
It's pretty fascinating that a mom and dad can have full on conversations with their little one before the time they even learn their first word.
But as we've learned thus far, it's due to the maternal bond between parent and child. BabyGaga notes that "The researchers at the University of Montreal and the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre discovered that when moms respond to their babies as though they understood what their child’s babbles meant, their infants started making more advanced sounds earlier."
It's a mutual understanding, which is hilarious to me because the instinct is not always understood.
11 The Urge For Natural Cleaning
I've seen this a few times without thinking too much about it, but now that it's brought to my attention, it does make me wonder... Have you ever seen a child drop their bottle or pacifier on the ground, only for their mom to pick it up, clean it, and then give it to their child?
Is this a mother's natural way of cleaning the bottle or pacifier for their child? Well, according to Vox, unknowingly doing this has benefits to their child. "Swedish researchers came to an unexpected finding about this seemingly gross habit — parents who do it have kids with significantly lower rates of allergies, eczema, asthma, and other auto-immune diseases."
A mother's saliva can strengthen their child's immune system, which is something most parents don't realize until after the fact. They just think they're "cleaning" the tip of the pacifier or bottle before their baby touches it. But in actuality, it's instinctual.
A mother has nine months to prepare for baby. This typically means she has all the milestones written down so that she knows what her child should be able to do by whichever month they're currently at. However, life can get busy, and life with an infant is no walk in the park.
Forgetting what your baby is "supposed" to be doing by a certain time frame can happen to anyone — and this includes teething.
Without even knowing that most kids begin teething around four to six months, parents can sense the discomfort and need to be chewing on things. Sure, this may be seen as a layup, considering a child is giving all the signs a mom could possibly need, some moms just know.
9 A Mother's Voice
By 24 weeks, our babies can start hearing voices outside the womb. This is why when a baby is born, they're placed on their mom or dad for skin-to-skin (for the scent and feel of their parent) to calm them down.
A baby knows their parents' voices and the sound of their mother's heart. As it turns out, though, a mother's voice has a deeper meaning to their child than we thought.
"When we talk to our babies it activates the part of their brain responsible for language development, unlike strangers whose voices activate the babies’ voice recognition part of the brain," BabyGaga expresses.
They continue saying "When the research team from the University of Montreal and the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Research Centre learned this, the infants they were working with had only been born 24 hours (or less) ago."
8 Knowing What Your Baby Cries Mean
I don't have any children of my own yet, however, my best friend has a six-month-old who is just as adorable as any other child out there. When I asked about her sweetie's cries, she knew exactly what every cry and coo meant.
Somehow, without speaking the same language, she and her baby girl are able to communicate through non-verbal cues and cries.
Now, some women say a baby crying is straightforward: they're either hungry, uncomfortable, or sleepy. However, moms seem to identify what their baby is telling them, compared to other adults who may be keeping an eye on them. It's one of those female instincts that is tough to put into words.
7 A Mother's Own
If you asked any mother if they would be able to distinguish their child's coos in a room filled with children, they'd agree wholeheartedly.
A mother knows her child in and out — even when blindfolded. Backing up this instinct, the NY Times explains research proving a mother's connection to her child.
"M.R.I. scans were taken as each mother watched videos of the babies, including her own, with the sound off," the Times noted. "When a woman saw images of her own child smiling or upset, her brain patterns were markedly different than when she watched the other children."
A mother's brain activity was even "particularly pronounced" when she saw a video of her child crying or in pain, proving that she goes into protection mode.
6 That Newborn Baby Smell
Ever hear new parents express their desire for that "new baby" scent?
Some people like the smell of new cars, while others prefer the smell of their newly born baby — to each their own!
BabyGaga explained this instinct for a parent to smell their baby by saying mothers can "identify their babies by scent alone." What's even more interesting is 90% can identify their child by smell after just 10 minutes of meeting them! The art of knowing our child by smell is so primal; it's something that's unexplainable (and kind of something worth bragging over, to be honest).
5 Nesting Is Instinctual
You don't need to have children to have heard about a woman's "nesting" phase. When an expecting mother is in her third trimester, her "nesting" urge begins. It's a time where she slowly starts preparing for the baby to come. She organizes the clothes, prepares the nursery, baby-proofs the home...
She basically goes into full-on preparation mode for that sweet baby.
The nesting phase is hands-down a moment of instinct that has little information as to why. It's natural. However, if an expecting mother doesn't experience nesting, this, of course, does not mean she's not ready for her child to arrive, but a staggering 73% told BabyCenter they felt the urge to nest in their third trimester.
4 A Sixth Sense
I might be biased, but women definitely have a superpower that their baby daddy doesn't have. It's a bond: an unexplainable connection to their child that comes naturally, whereas the dad might need some more time.
It's not hard to see why growing a baby inside of you for nine months might give you a little lead in the bonding department.
Moms seem to have a six sense for their children. BabyGaga reiterates that all women are born with this deeper intuition, but when you become a mother, the urge to listen to that gut instinct is heightened. This ESP moment especially happens when they think something is wrong with their child.
3 The Ability To Feed A Child
One of the most interesting things about the female body is the natural ability to grow a human inside of them and produce food to feed it. It's one of nature's miracles! While breastfeeding might not be instinctual in all women, it definitely comes easier for others.
When you think about it, breastfeeding is actually more instinctual in babies, rather than their mothers. They know they need milk and where it's coming from.
Just think about how women breastfed billions of years ago. There were no lactation consultants or someone to explain that a woman's breastmilk (usually) comes in three to four days after birth. They had this natural ability to know they had to feed their child once they learned how to latch.
2 Loving Your Child More
I remember having a panic attack in my mid 20's, worrying about not having a connection to children. Thankfully, my mom assured me that it's different when you have your own child. The connection between yourself and your infant is deeper than say you and a random child. BabyCenter says no matter how you feel about children before having your own, it's different when it happens to you.
"Once you give birth, it's a whole new ballgame, and feelings you never expected to have will surface as part of the process of becoming a parent."
Perhaps it's the literal connection between mother and umbilical cord, nevertheless, a woman's deep connection to her child is primal.
1 The Need To Be A Mother
Some women are iffy about becoming a mother until the moment actually happens. Pregnancy is different for all women (some love being pregnant, while others disliked it), but for a majority of women, there's a growing sense of peace and happiness while pregnant.
Why is this? The Conversation explains women learn to enjoy pregnancy—or the thought of motherhood, in general—because of the release of oxytocin. The hormone is released throughout pregnancy—especially when stimulating breastmilk—making the woman bond with her fetus than ever before.
The pregnancy could have been a surprise, but the need to nurture and protect that baby inside is deeply fundamental.