Baby Can Read Your Mind

Is there anything in life that beats looking into your baby’s eyes? No, but seriously. Whether you’re singing to your baby or feeding her, locking eyes with your precious little one is the most rewarding part of being a mom. And there’s a real reason why. In fact, science actually gives you a good reason to do more of it: A new study shows that gazing into your baby’s eyes helps you communicate with each other.

What the study looked at

People are social by nature, and scientists have already established that our brains are built to communicate with each other. Previous research has shown that when babies and caregivers look into each other’s eyes, they bond. So the study authors wanted to take a deeper dive into this phenomenon and find out the nitty-gritty of what’s going on in your brain and your baby’s when you look at each other.

To do so, they set up two small studies using EEG (electroencephalography, which records the brain’s electrical activity) on both adults and babies. In the first, 17 infants watched a video of an adult singing nursery rhymes. The adults were either looking directly face-forward at the baby; indirectly (head averted to 20 degrees and not looking at the baby); or directly-obliquely (head turned to the side but eyes looking into the infant’s, to ensure that the babies were responding to the eyes and not to the head positioning). In the second experiment, a group of 19 different infants watched adults perform nursery rhymes live with the same direct and indirect head/eye positions. They then compared the babies’ and the adults brain activity using the EEG measurements. Their research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

What it found

In the first experiment, when adults were looking into the screen at the babies, the babies’ brain activity was more impacted than when the adults were looking away (but the babies’ gaze didn’t impact the adults, since the video was pre-recorded).

The same was true for the second experiment. In fact, when the adults were in the same room, the babies’ reaction to them was even stronger. The babies also made more noises when the adults were in the same room singing to them and looking them in the eyes. What’s more, the adults’ brain activity changed in response to the babies.

The researchers concluded that direct eye contact between babies and caregivers “strengthens bidirectional adult–infant neural connectivity during communication.” In other words, that eye contact is a crucial part of how you two communicate!

What this means for you

The best way to bond with your baby is to spend time together reading, singing and cuddling. Eat up each and every opportunity to look your little one in the eye. And since the study shows that babies get more out of in-person interactions, it gives you even more reason to skip the screen time and instead spend quality one-on-one time with your infant.


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