While it's important to appreciate mothers every day of the year, it's especially important to take time to express our gratitude on Mother's Day! We are so grateful to all the mothers who love and nurture their children, and the profound impact they have on our lives.
The History of Mother's Day
Mother’s Day is a holiday honoring motherhood that is observed in different forms throughout the world. The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Her mother had frequently expressed a desire for the establishment of such a holiday, and after her mother's death, Jarvis led the movement for the commemoration.
Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, who held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but the clearest modern precedent for Mother’s Day is the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.”
Mother's Day Around the World
Versions of Mother’s Day are celebrated worldwide, and traditions vary depending on the country. In Thailand, for example, Mother’s Day is always celebrated in August on the birthday of the current queen.
Another example of the observance of Mother’s Day can be found in Ethiopia, where families gather each fall to sing songs and eat a large feast in a multi-day celebration honoring motherhood.
In the United States, Mother’s Day is typically celebrated by presenting mothers with gifts, flowers, and other tokens of appreciation.
The Bond Between a Mother and Child
Mothers are amazing in so many ways - too many to mention them all - but the bond between a mother and her children is undeniably special.
This bond is instinctual, and forms the basis for all the ways mothers nurture and protect their young. It even begins before birth. Fetuses respond to the sound of their mother's voice even while still in the womb!
Bonding happens in many ways. Touching, feeding, and holding a baby are all forms of bonding. Breastfeeding is one of the most powerful ways a mother and baby bond. Have you noticed that even when very young, when a mother gazes into her baby's eyes the baby gazes right back? This is the baby deepening the bond with the mother. A baby's cries will even stimulate a let-down of a mother's milk.
Some mothers worry they aren't bonding immediately with their baby, and that is normal. Remember that the bonding process sometimes takes time. As a mother cares for the baby, they will find the attachment grows; it is all part of a natural process.
There are ways to increase a mother's (and father's!) bond with the baby, including:
Spend as much time as possible with the baby by wearing a sling or carrier, rock the baby on your lap, and/or sing a song. A mother's voice and touch are very comforting to a baby.
Give your baby a gentle (and safe!) massage. Research has found that massage can not only improve the relationship between parent and baby, but it also can relieve stress in premature infants and eases maternal postpartum depression. To learn how to massage your baby safely, consult a pediatrician or take a class at a local hospital.
Skin-to-skin contact is also very important for both the mother and the baby. This practice, called 'kangaroo care', is often used in premature babies, but studies find that it's also calming to babies born full-term. It not only helps with bonding, but it also can improve your baby's ability to breastfeed.
For newborns that are born in a hospital, ask to room-in with the baby. Sleeping in the same room will give you more time to get to know one another. If the baby is premature and in the NICU, ask the hospital staff to touch and hold him when it is safe to do so. Just talking to your baby can help the two of you bond.
Breastfeeding and Bonding
Think about how confusing and scary it must be for a newborn to enter the world full of bright lights, loud noises, and new smells! A baby needs reassurance from both parents to adjust to their new environment, but breastfeeding is particularly important for a newborn's sense of security and comfort.
By holding your baby while breastfeeding and giving nourishment from your body, a baby gets a sense of continuity from pre-to-post birth life. Babies often spend most of the time breastfeeding gazing into a mother's eyes, and this fosters a profound sense of love and protection.
In addition, breastfeeding releases hormones in a mother's body that promote mothering behaviors. This emotional bond is as vital as the nutritional benefits a baby receives. Scientists now know that infants learn best in a context of emotional closeness. Breastfeeding promotes a growing attachment between mother and child that will continue to play an important role in a baby’s development for years to come.
What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate Mother's Day? Let us know in the comments!