My youngest daughter was the rolliest, squishiest baby I have ever seen in my life. She was the same size as her older sister at birth, and then something … happened. I don’t even know what. She more than doubled her birth weight at eight weeks, and then just kept right on going. I could nibble on her rolls and cheeks and chins (so many chins) so days. Even my oldest had the cutest baby cheeks, and yep, I nommed on those, too. This feeling of wanting to eat your baby is strange, but it can be so overwhelming at times! Just one little love bite, you know you want to do it. As it turns out, there’s a reason we feel this primal need to munch on our babies. Science says it’s not only normal, but it makes you a better parent. NOM NOM.
Wanting to eat your baby is a TOTALLY normal response. In fact, it’s a healthy part of your evolutionary bonding mechanism!
You know that saying, “you’re lucky you’re so cute?” I’ve said it to my own kids before, after they’ve done something horrid like sneeze snot directly into my mouth. Babies are cute because their entire beings are designed to make you fall in love with them! Those cheeks, those eyes, those rubber band arms: all part of their grand plan to make you love them and take care of them. Those little parts also make us want to eat them. But wanting to eat your baby is a sign of healthy attachment and bonding. Not, you know, actual cannibalism.
Studies have shown that we are hardwired to be drawn to anything that looks like a baby. It’s in our biology!
Those cute baby features like big eyes, small chins, and larger foreheads are defined by Ethologist Konrad Lorenz as “baby schema”. Baby schema motivate care-taking behavior in humans. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) studied the effects on baby schema on 122 undergraduate students. Researchers manipulated photographs to have “high baby schema” with the characteristics mentioned above, and “low baby schema” (narrow face, small eyes, smaller forehead).
Students ranked the photos (which is weird) and the photos of babies with high baby schema ranked higher and correlated with the strongest impulse to cuddle and care for the infant.
But how does this translate to wanting to eat your baby? Researchers say that this overdose of cuteness triggers a “cute aggression”. A Yale study says it’s the brains way of balancing out an abundance of extremely positive emotions. Oriana Aragon, PhD, a professor in the department of psychology at Yale University and the lead study author says, “When you see something that’s unbearably cute, you have this high positive reaction. These feelings get overwhelming, and for some reason (with) cuteness, the ‘dimorphous expression’ happens to be the gritting of teeth, clenching of fists, and aggressive statements like ‘I wanna eat you.’”
So the next time you want to nom on your baby’s cheeks and find yourself holding back, just know that what you’re feeling is TOTALLY normal. And then cover your teeth with your lips and give those cheeks a little nibble. It’s good for you.