I notice that many babies that are calm and relaxed, tend to have calm and relaxed parents…but is it inherited? I did a little research and here is the scoop! It is hard to tell which traits are genetically hardwired from parent habits, but it the age old question of “nature versus nurture” is what comes into play. I do know that there are thousands of genes in the chromosomes that we pass on to our children and stress is not just a simple “one-to-one”
During pregnancy any mom who claims she wasn’t stressed, even just a little, is completely lying! There is always a moment of worrying and anxiety. But, if your anxieties are high, there is a good chance of having a baby who could be just as nervous. Studies have shown that the more on “edge” a mom can be, the more negatively a baby reacts to these types of situations. According to Parents.com, “Experiencing lots of stress in pregnancy (the kind that comes from moving or fighting with your partner) can make it harder for baby to relax, even if you’re generally laid-back. Researchers suspect that Mom’s stress hormones actually affect her fetus’s central nervous system.”
I read a very interesting article that was an update to this topic: “Cathi Propper, a developmental psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her colleagues studied infants at several periods over their first year of life, inducing stress by separating them from their mothers. Using an electrocardiogram, the researchers determined the babies’ vagal tone, an indicator of how strongly the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain stem to most organs in the body, is suppressing heart rate. During stress, vagal tone decreases, allowing the heart to speed up and the body to handle the stressor. But some of the babies did not show this normal decrease in vagal tone during distressing periods; the researchers found that these infants who lacked an effective response at ages three and six months shared a particular variant of the DRD2 gene.”
Good news? These genes are not destiny. The same researchers also evaluated parents who stick to calm and sensitive parenting. So does this tactic help despite the genes that cause stress? Yes and yes! By 12 months, these babies attended to consistently with calm mannerisms responded just as effectively. So what does that mean? There is a poster in my apartment that sums it up, “Keep calm and carry on” – it helps keep the stress away!