The bond between a mother and child is the stuff of legend. It can sometimes feel like you have a sixth sense when it comes to your baby's temperament and emotions. It's only natural to wonder if that bond tends to work in both directions. For instance, does baby know when you're sad? Your little one may be more in tune with your emotions than you realize.
While babies are learning about their world and everything in it, they also develop the ability to read others' emotions from an early age. In fact, newborns are able to tell the difference between happy and sad expressions, according to Parents. It doesn't take long at all for your kid's ability to read emotions to kick in.
On an even more impressive note, babies may be able to read your true feelings when you attempt to hide them. For instance, a 2013 study in Infant Behavior and Development showed 18-month-old infants appear to understand that adults may sometimes feel sad, but not allow this feeling to show. In other words, you don't have to act pouty and dejected for your infant to understand you're feeling blue. The baby will likely pick up on your real emotions anyway. Although more research is needed to fully understand how babies are able to pick up on these subtle emotional cues, one truth is clear: babies know when mama isn't happy.
Just how strongly do these feelings transfer from mother to baby? Although it's difficult to study something as nebulous as emotion — especially when half of your test subjects aren't able to talk yet — there has been some recent insight into babies' capacity for empathy. In fact, if stress is bumming you out, then your baby may be very well keyed in to this reaction. According to a 2014 study in Psychological Science, when mothers are experiencing stress, it may actually be contagious for their infants. In other words, this mother-child bond is so strong that some emotions may be transferred from mother to child.
Although these studies about the exact nature of the mother-child bond still have a lot of ground to cover, perhaps they can give you some peace of mind. The next time you're feeling down, remember your baby will likely pick up on this fact, even if you put on a brave face for the world. In this way, motherhood means you'll always have someone connected to you who cares about your emotional well-being, even if he can't quite put that into words yet.