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Is Stress Contagious? Your Stress Can Influence Your Baby's Mood

HEALTH: We all know that motherhood – and life, in general! – comes with various stresses.

And now new research has shown that your stress levels can be picked up by your baby.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco undertook the study, which shows that babies not only pick up that their mother is under pressure, they also start to become anxious themselves.

"Before infants are verbal and able to express themselves fully, we can overlook how exquisitely attuned they are to the emotional tenor of their caregivers," say the researchers.

"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 own negative emotion."

The study involved studying 69 women and their approximately one-year-old babies. While the babies played, the mothers were divided into three groups – each group had to make a five-minute speech, with the first group speaking in front of an encouraging audience, the second group to a negative audience, and the third group made the speech to an empty room.

The moms were then reunited with their babies, and the babies' heart rates were monitored. The moms who had a negative audience were the most stressed – and their babies picked up on this. The result was increased heart rates in these babies, after only a few minutes with their moms.

The researchers suggest that a change in the mom's tone of voice, physical touch, facial expressions or even smell can trigger the response in her baby.

If you are feeling stressed and anxious as a new mother, the first thing you need to do is take time to treat yourself well. This means that you need to eat a proper diet, get adequate amount of sleep, and try not to feel guilty about taking some well-deserved 'me' time. Even though sleep often comes at a premium when you have a baby, it is still very important that you get rest – try to take advantage of those down times when your baby is napping.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help and try to put aside all thoughts of being 'super mom' – we all want to be the ultimate mom who can juggle numerous tasks with ease while still looking fantastic, but we put enormous stress and pressure on ourselves to reach this ideal.

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