Mommas: Here’s the Science Behind Why Your Happiness Matters.

mom laughing and nuzzling baby. baby laughing

This is a phrase you’ll hear us say a lot:

Happy baby, happy momma.

It’s a guiding light for us here at Kiss Kiss Goodnight; a nod to the fact that both baby and momma’s happiness are important. It speaks to the dual nature of our products-- that we are all about nighttime skincare for both mom and baby.

And, also, it’s a reminder. We all know that we want happy babies, but how often do we consider how much our own happiness matters in nurturing a happy baby..and a happy life? Our phrase is meaningful if you flip it around, too-- maybe a happy momma comes before a happy baby, and not the other way around.

It’s not just self-help mumbo jumbo, there is actual science that proves our happiness matters. Here’s what it says, in simple terms you don’t need to have had five cups of coffee to understand:

baby sleeping on mom's shoulder

our children-- even newborn babies-- are influenced by your mood

Dora Wang, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine points to compelling research that shows your behavior, moods and parenting style has an impact on your child’s temperament.

In other words, it’s not just genetics that influences your child’s budding personality. This is even true for babies, who imitate their parent’s emotions, which in turn affects neural pathways in their brains. In this way, we wire our babies to be predisposed to smiling easier, or frowning more. They’re learning it all from us. “From birth, infants pick up on emotional cues from others. Even very young infants look to caregivers to determine how to react to a given situation,” reports Jennifer E. Lansford, PhD, a professor at Duke University.

If you’re stressed, baby notices. If you’re happy, baby notices. It’s easy to think that they’re too young to catch on to your emotions, but it’s not as much a conscious perception as a biological response. Sara Waters, lead researcher and postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco, says: “Our research shows that infants ‘catch’ and embody the physiological residue of their mother’s stressful experiences. Your infant may not be able to tell you that you seem stressed or ask you what is wrong, but our work shows that, as soon as she is in your arms, she is picking up on the bodily responses accompanying your emotional state and immediately begins to feel in her own body your negative emotion.” Plus, over time, they adopt our feelings as their own.

Now, before you worry that one bad day is going to cause your baby to grow up riddled with negativity, know that that’s not the case. While babies pick up on what’s happening around them, day by day, it takes long-term influence to make a lasting effect.

So if you’ve noticed that you have more “bad” days than good ones, or have caught yourself being a Negative Nancy more than you’d like, this is even more of an incentive to making self-care a priority. If you’ve noticed that you have stopped pursuing the things that make you happy because you don’t have the time, or because it doesn’t seem as important, know that it really DOES matter. Science says so.

Here’s how to take meaningful action to be the happy momma you want to be:

Think about what being a good mom means to you.

Seriously, write it down. Then look back over your answer and see if it reflects how you really live. Notice if any of the things you wrote actually require you to sacrifice your own happiness, interests or goals, or if they can be achieved anyway.

In Breaking the Good Mom Myth: Every Mom’s Modern Guide to Getting Past Perfection, Regaining Sanity, and Raising Great Kids, author Alyson Schafer talks about how “the acts of self-sacrificing mothers” are so often praised. She says:

“It’s hard to look after our own needs when our culture so reveres the acts of self-sacrificing mothers. Just watch the admiring expressions on people’s faces when they hear the family folklores of how Grandma ‘never bought anything for herself,’ how she ‘always made sure the children had enough,’ and how she often ‘went without’ to provide for them. Awwww!!! Everybody together now-- let’s make one unified sigh of admiration. WOW-- What a goooooood mother!”

Is this true in your family or culture? It’s a pretty pervasive theme in motherhood, and it’s time to recognize that it doesn’t have to be true. Mom’s happiness matters. Now you know that science proves it, plus you’ve created your own story about what being a good mom means to you-- and we bet it doesn’t say anything about skipping meals and never grabbing a drink with girlfriends.

Make a list of the things that make you happy.

Think of both big things (girls’ weekends and spa days) and little things (fresh flowers and hot coffee). How many of these things are you currently allowing yourself on a regular basis? If you aren’t incorporating what makes you happy into your average week, make a plan to start. It won’t be the same as it was pre-kids (you certainly can’t just take off on a spur-of-the-moment girls’ trip like you used to) but with a little planning, it’s all doable. The reward is even sweeter knowing that what you do for you, you do for your entire family. Plus, giving yourself something to look forward to-- even if it’s just a Starbucks caramel macchiato-- will boost your happiness.

Ask for help.

This is a big one for moms everywhere, especially new moms. If you feel unhappy and you don’t know how to get back to happy, ask for help. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you-- in fact, around 15% of women suffer from some form of postpartum depression-- and that’s just the reported cases. Estimates are the many more women go undiagnosed. Getting help is the best thing you can do for everyone.

There’s another kind of help women are slow to ask for. And that’s just regular, every day help. True happiness is an inside job, but it can also depend on things like having the time to take a shower each day, or getting out of the house and wandering around Target alone once in a while. Whatever you need, ask for it. Your partner, friends and family probably don’t know what you need, but they’re likely to be willing to give it to you once you ask. You don’t have to go it alone-- ask for help as you walk the path to being an exceptionally happy momma.

Getting help doesn’t make you any less of a mom, in fact, it can make you a better one.

The happy momma, happy baby connection isn’t about guilt. It’s about empowerment. Doing what makes you happy is one of the most important things you can focus on throughout motherhood. Isn’t that a relief?

Start taking care of yourself now, momma.

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