Is it true that there is a maternal instinct?

For centuries women have been given the role of mothers because, among many factors, we are supposed to be born for it. That triggered a question that has been tried to answer throughout human history: is it true that the maternal instinct exists?

Everyone expects women to want children, know how to take care of them as soon as they are born and that you innately understand your babies. But how realistic is this? Is there that set of behaviors that automatically turn a woman into an exemplary mother?

What is the maternal instinct?

Instinct refers to a innate behavior that responds to some stimulus. Then, the maternal instinct would be defined as an innate knowledge that goes hand in hand with a set of caring behaviors that are acquired when becoming a mother.

This definition and belief has haunted women since the 19th century, when physicians became interested in childbirth, breastfeeding, and pregnancy. Until then, all this was attended by midwives or midwives.

Since doctors became interested in childbirth, with the aim of preventing more deaths of women in labor and infants while the birth occurred, the woman was labeled as mother For nature. Since then, any other activity that was not related to children and their upbringing was not natural or welcomed.

In nature, mammals have instincts to protect and care for their children, but all human females feel this. From a social point of view, instinct is a concept built by medicine at that time.

Although at present, if that feeling does not arise when the child is born, it can create perceptions of failure in the mother. So that the maternal instinct defined in such a way is a myth.

Is there a maternal instinct? Or are we facing a social construction? This is debated at different levels.

What do scientific studies say about the maternal instinct?

Oxytocin is a hormone known, among other things, for its role in childbirth and breastfeeding. It is released in the pituitary gland during childbirth. It is responsible for causing contractions in the uterus to facilitate the process.

Studies suggest that oxytocin increases after delivery and during breastfeeding, in charge of preparing the mother to respond to the baby's stimuli and their different signals.

This does not mean that all women automatically know what to do with a newborn nor that they are ready to take care of him when they give birth, but it is something that is achieved with time and the mother and child contact.

In fact, it is pointed out that the encounter between mother and newborn child that crawls to the breast and sucks spontaneously is what triggers the levels of the hormone.

Breastfeeding is crucial for the survival of the child, since it is their source of food and it is the mother who can provide it. So it is a shared bond capable of generating physiological reactions. It has been observed that when the baby cries, the mammary glands produce milk.

So what we label as maternal instinct and makes us imagine that motherhood is perfect, it is nothing more than a biological and physiological impulse of attachment and attraction to our offspring. But this does not make a woman the ideal mother. The belief around this is one of the main culprits of postpartum stress.

Also read: Oxytocin, the love hormone, hides a dark side that you should know

Tips for dealing with postpartum stress

Stress, depression, or baby blues are the same. It's about feelings of sadness and worry that appear the first days after delivery.

Theories state that these mood swings occur due to the hormonal changes of pregnancy. Estrogen and progesterone levels that were high during pregnancy drop sharply after delivery. So it is understandable that there are mood swings.

The hormones return to their pre-pregnancy levels a week later. As those values ​​return to stability, sadness subsides.

To deal with them you can do the following:

  • Rest, eat healthy and accept support of loved ones in raising the child.
  • Let family and friends help with housework, shopping, and food preparation.
  • Try to relax, bathe with hot water or sleep.
  • Talk to other mothers or close people who have just given birth and can give support.
  • Cry if necessary.

Postpartum depression is a situation that oscillates between manageable sad states and clinical pictures that require professional attention.

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Take motherhood in stride and enjoy learning

Do not be sad. Motherhood can be a strong impact on the life of any woman. There are no ideal mothers; only women with affectionate impulses to care for and protect the infant.

So you're not supposed to feel a love at first sight or a instant click. They all experience it differently. You just have to let nature take its course, meet your baby and have contact with the new being who will call you "mom."