I’m always a little wary of studies that show how babies are only able to become optimal people through constant effort on the part of mom. I worry such studies point out tangible benefits to things not all moms can do — whether that’s breastfeed, cosleep, or babywear. Because as a mom, you’re constantly fed a steady diet of steaming hot mom guilt and these studies are like big slices of mom guilt pie. Yummy, mummies! Eat up!
However, I’m starting to think that we moms need to turn the tables on these studies … or rather, on society’s response to them. Instead of allowing ourselves to wallow in mom guilt, we should use these studies to our advantage by citing them for what they are — scientific evidence that the current cultural climate in the US is deeply unfriendly to mothers.
Take this study, for example, from the Miami Herald. This study proves that not holding your baby enough can negatively affect his or her DNA.
In DNA methylation, some parts of the chromosome are “tagged” with molecules that can control how active that portion is, the scientists explained in the release. Scientists can generally predict how this should go as we age.
When they compared the methylation between the children, they found that there were consistent differences between the low-physical-contact and high-physical-contact children. In effect, the cells of the low-contact children were less mature than they should have been given the child’s actual age.
That could result in the child experiencing delays in development and growth, said Michael Kobor, a professor in the Department of Medical Genetics, in the release.
(How’s that guilt tasting, mama?)
Jokes aside, this is the kind of study that convinced me not to sleep-train baby #4 until I was basically out of my mind crazy with sleep deprivation. This is the kind of study that makes moms feel like we have to do more, try harder, and be better if we don’t want to damage our kids forever.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be this way. This is ALSO the kind of study we can arm ourselves with when we march into work and explain that, much like United Nations MEP Licia Ronzulli, we’re bringing baby to work with us. This is the kind of study we can discuss while our husbands pick up the slack around the house or take their turn with the babe-in-arms. This is the kind of study we can cite when pediatricians warn us not to “spoil” our baby.
In short, this is the kind of study we can add to a growing arsenal of studies that prove that our society’s attitudes, policies, and structure are not healthy for children. It’s the kind of research we can — and should — use to push for change in the interest of our children’s well-being, rather than forcing our children to take a backseat to society.
Instead of giving us guilt heartburn, this kind of information can change the world for us moms and our kids. All we have to do is use research like this to put the pressure where it belongs — on society, not ourselves.
It’s impossible to savor every single moment of life — and that’s okay