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Main article: Mother child relations

A mother holds up her child.

The maternal bond is typically the relationship between a mother and her child.

While it typically occurs due to pregnancy and childbirth, it may also occur between a woman and an unrelated child, such as in adoption. There are hundreds of factors, physical and emotional, which influence the mother-infant bonding process.

Many new mothers do not always experience the "instantly-in-mother-love" emotions. Bonding is a gradually unfolding experience that can take hours, days, weeks, or even months to develop.


The maternal bond between a human female and her biological child usually begins to develop during pregnancy, with her normally adapting her lifestyle to suit the needs of the developing infant. Beginning around 18 to 25 weeks, the mother also can feel the fetus moving, which can enhance bonding, as can seeing her baby during an ultrasound scan.

The developing fetus hears the mother's heart beat and voice and may respond to touch or movement. By the seventh month of pregnancy, two-thirds of women may report a strong maternal bond.[1]

The process of childbirth ideally greatly adds to this bond - though that is not always the case, as every birth and every mother is unique. Situational factors may include a traumatic birth, the pregnant woman's own mother's parenting style, experienced stress, social support, and the influence of the partner. It has been thought[by whom?] that babies and/or children emit a scent which makes many adults want to take care of them on instinct[citation needed].

The emotional bonding theory first appeared in the mid-1970s[citation needed], and by the 1980s bonding had become an accepted maternity term[citation needed]; after which the process became analysed[citation needed] and scrutinised to the point of creating another term - poor bonding[citation needed].


Production of oxytocin during lactation increases parasympathetic activity, thus reducing anxiety and theoretically fostering bonding, so it is generally understood that maternal oxytocin circulation can predispose women to form bonds and show bonding behaviour.

Breastfeeding is also strongly believed to foster the early post-partum maternal bond, via touch, response, and mutual gazing.[2]

See also


  1. Winkler J (2000). [Development of the maternal bond during pregnancy]. Cas. Lek. Cesk. 139 (1): 5–8.
  2. includeonly>Else-Quest, NM, Hyde JS; Clark, R. "Breastfeeding, bonding, and the mother-infant relationship", Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 2003-10-01. Retrieved on 2008-03-13.
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