Our Babies, Our Moods: How Our Little Ones Pick Up on Our Moods

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My seven-month-old daughter Xaviana is a happy little person. She smiles and giggles her way through each day, and rarely fusses. Even as her first two bottom teeth began to poke through, she remained pretty much unperturbed.

One day last week, however, she was super-whiny. She didn’t want to play, or nap, or do much of anything, for that matter. I’d started my morning in a grumpy mood as well, and as the day progressed, I became more tired and grouchy by the minute. I don’t know whether the root cause of my bad mood had been hormones, lack of sleep, or the “May-gray” that had hit San Diego with a vengeance, but I was definitely not feeling like myself.

Happy mom = happy baby!

Happy mom = happy baby!

I discussed my random irritations with Antonio, and he was able to lift me out of my doldrums. He said something that made me laugh, and Xaviana, who had been watching the whole exchange, looked at me and giggled, too. At that moment, it hit me: my bad mood had rubbed off on her. She’s used to seeing her dad and me relaxed and upbeat, and my annoyance with nothing in particular had caused her to be just that.

It turns out that there’s a scientific basis to this phenomenon of mood mirroring. A recent study measured the heart rates and emotions of 12 to 14-month-old babies whose moms were given stressful tasks, and found that the little ones seemed to “track” their moms’ stress responses. Moms’ and babies’ stress responses (increased heart rates) mirrored each other. Researchers theorized that moms’ cues, such as vocal tension and facial expression, had influenced their babies’ moods.

Moms out there, do your good and bad days seem to coincide with those of your little ones? Have you heard of any other interesting studies on mood tracking in moms and babies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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3 thoughts on “Our Babies, Our Moods: How Our Little Ones Pick Up on Our Moods

  1. I don’t know of any studies but I definitely agree with your theory. If I have a bad day my baby is clingy and whiny, sometimes to the point of making my mood worse and then we are just winding each other up! Sometimes I just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but with a little one the house gets a double dose of grouchiness!

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