The Science of Love

I’ve been thinking a lot about what “love” is, recently. I think it’s mostly because of my daughter. In my eyes, she’s one of the most amazing human beings that has ever existed. What’s unbelievable is how happy I make her.

She smiles when I play with her. She calms down when I pick her up. She snuggles into my neck when she’s tired. She’s clearly grown attached to me, and takes comfort in my presence. But why?

What is it about me that makes her so happy? I know a big part of it has to be that I’m her primary source of food. It’s not just the eating thing. It’s the hormonal release associated with feeding.

Breastfeeding, as many parents have read countless times, releases hormones in both mother and baby that help strengthen bonding. These hormones make you feel good (like, really good. It astounded me the first few times I successfully nursed my daughter and got this huge high from the hormones. Wow), and you associate that good feeling with the person you’re with. Breastfeeding’s not the only way a baby and parent can bond. Touch, especially skin-to-skin contact, can also cause the release of hormones like oxytocin, thus strengthening the relationship between baby and caretaker.

That’s the scientific explanation, but that honestly makes me a little sad. I like to think that there’s a deeper part to human nature, besides being sacks of saline. I’m a religious person, and I really hope, at least, that our feelings run deeper than hormones. I hope my baby likes me because I’m a good nurturer, that I’m fun, and that I help her explore her world. I know I love my baby for more than that hormonal high I get when nursing. She’s adorable beyond words, makes the cutest noises, is the best snuggler on the face of the planet, and is very precocious.

When I realized I wanted to marry my husband, I wasn’t sure what love is. I just knew that he was the perfect person to spend the rest of my life with. Now that I have my little girl, and I’m even more in love with her, I understand less what love actually is. I try to define it- that’s the Science in Science Momma, but it just confuses me more. For now, I’m happy enough knowing that I love my little girl, and she loves me.

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