No, You’re Not Imagining It: You Really Do Want to Eat Your Baby
A few years ago, I wrote an article and talked about how much I enjoyed “munching” on my babies' cute, chubby thighs. There's just something about a baby thigh that is so delicious and irresistible, I wrote. You can't help but want to take a bite out of a cute baby, you know?
Let me just stop right there because, ladies.
You would NOT believe the amount of hate mail I got over that article.
Comment after comment; email after email, Tweets and messages to my Facebook inbox poured in. Wow, you must be some kind of sicko! one person wrote me. Who even thinks that way?! wrote another. You sound like you need some serious therapy, wrote still another. There must be something wrong with you, wanting to eat your baby!!
I couldn't help but laugh then and I still laugh about it now. Because I'm sorry, sicko or not, I stand by what I said: I still feel like I could eat my babies right up with a spoon. I'd tell my youngest daughter all the time that she was so cute I was going to eat her up for breakfast and she would giggle so hard and protest, “No, Mama, you can't eat me for breakfast!”
If you're a mom, chances are you know exactly what I'm talking about and odds are, you've probably munched on a baby thigh yourself once or twice in your life. It's just what moms do. But contrary to being some kind of sick, twisted individuals in need of therapy, luckily, science has backed our innate desire to munch on our babies with proof that it's pretty normal.
According to Motherly, babies are literally designed to appeal to our most basic, primordial selves in order to ensure that they can survive. Because without their adorable cuteness, their big, cartoonish eyes, and those little squishy thighs, let's be honest–they'd be a heck of a lot of work with no reward, you know what I'm saying? Instead, nature essentially tricks us into thinking babies are just the cutest things ever so that we will fall all over ourselves to take care of them.
The Motherly article cites a really interesting, if not lengthy article on how baby “schema,” i.e. the characteristics and features in babies that we see as adorable, influence our actions and motivations as caregivers to take care of said adorable babies. You probably won't be surprised to hear that essentially, the study boiled down to: the cuter the baby, the more our primal caregiving selves are activated. Another study further explained that the cuter the baby, the more the mesocorticolimbic system of the brain, the pathway that is linked to reward and “feel-good” emotions was activated.
Those feel-good emotions come courtesy of a big surge of dopamine that moms get when they see a cute baby — a literal cuteness alert! — but apparently, there is a downside to that sudden and overwhelming influx of dopamine to the system. This is where things get interesting, because what happens is that your system is so overloaded with dopamine and all of those adorable vibes from your baby and all of those feel-good hormones that your system literally can't handle it, so you start to experience “cuteness aggression.” It's your brain's way of dealing with the emotions you're experiencing by triggering an opposite reaction.
Cute aggression is also called dimorphous expression and it's the phenomenon of your brain experiencing such an overwhelming influx of positive emotions that it somehow then feeds into behaviors typically associated with negative emotions, like being so happy that you burst into tears. Our brain just can't deal with all of the emotions it is experiencing, so it comes out in ways that might not seem to make a lot of sense at first. It explains why we cry when we're actually really happy, why we feel the same way when we're excited as when we're really anxious, and why we suddenly get the urge to pinch a cute baby's cheeks or blow raspberries on their stomachs or bite their little feet.
So, in conclusion, I am not a monster, I am actually totally normal and any of you have been sending me hate mail can go ahead and stop now, mmmmk? It's totally normal to want to eat your baby and science says so, so there.