Mothers and babies can instantly synchronize their hearts just by smiling at each other…

Don’t believe us? Check out this cool article on what researchers have discovered about the connection between mums and babies.

“Mothers and their babies are often said to share a deep, intimate connection…but even so, this new discovery is weird. Simply by looking and smiling at each other, moms and babies synchronize their heartbeats to within milliseconds of each other.

Researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that visible affection from their mothers had tangible physiological effects on three month old infants. Previous studies in animals have shown that social interactions between “attachment partners” can actually affect the animal infants’ body, but this is the first time such an effect has been observed in humans. Writing in Infant Behavior and Development, the researchers explain what they discovered:

Mothers and their 3-month old infants were observed during face-to-face interactions while cardiac output was collected from mother and child. Micro-analysis of the partners’ behavior marked episodes of gaze, affect, and vocal synchrony. Time-series analysis showed that mother and infant coordinate heart rhythms within lags of less than 1 s.

Bootstrapping analysis indicated that the concordance between maternal and infant biological rhythms increased significantly during episodes of affect and vocal synchrony compared to non-synchronous moments. Humans, like other mammals, can impact the physiological processes of the attachment partner through the coordination of visuo-affective social signals.

However, humans can actually synchronize in ways other animals cannot — while other animals are dependent upon physical contact for this synchronization effect to occur, a mother need only look at her baby affectionately for the heartbeats to synchronize. It hasn’t yet been tested whether infants can form similar levels of attachment with other people, such as their fathers.”

(Article from http://io9.com/5865557/mothers-and-babies-can-instantly-synchronize-their-hearts-just-by-smiling-at-each-other; Via Infant Science and Development. Stock image by Noam Armonn, via Shutterstock.)

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Going back to a paid job – intellectual considerations

Intellectual Considerations

You may be worried about losing the intellectual stimulation of your professional world.  It’s true that the constant cycle of feeding, changing, settling, combined with the endless quantities of dirty washing and mashed pumpkin can be somewhat mind numbing!  For many women, the buzz of being in an adult workplace and challenging their intellect can add real balance to their role as a mum. 

I found that once I had the basics of caring for my first child sorted on a day to day basis, I started craving ‘something more’.  It wasn’t that I didn’t absolutely LOVE my time at home with her, and I adored my days at home, mucking in, reading Hairy Maclary over and over, and expressing my delight at the gift of a loved but grubby soft toy thrust into my hands.  But I also love the rush of the workplace challenge and the satisfaction of a happy client.  The solution that I found was to do a small amount of part-time work while she slept.  That way I didn’t feel like I was compromising my time with her, but I got that brain-buzz.

If you are thinking of staying home full-time, but worried about how you might get this extra intellectual stimulation, consider getting involved in a voluntary organisation.  They always love new volunteers and there are often some meaty leadership roles or projects that you can really get your teeth into.  A bit of part-time study could be the answer too and many mums take up something that is relevant to their new role – childbirth education, early childhood development, teachers college, to name just a few.

Going back to a paid job – professional considerations

You’re at the point where you’re weighing the decision about whether to be a mother who works in the home, or to undertake some form of paid work.  The next few posts will look at some things to consider in making your decision…

Professional Considerations

a) I love my job.

b) I’m on the brink of promotion.

c) I’m passionate about my company. 

d) I’m proud of what I do.

e) All of the above.

Okay, so this is not a magazine quiz that’s going to assign you an easy stereotype of motherhood (are you the “domestic goddess”, the “harried housewife”, the “part-time parent”, or perhaps just the “confused cogitator”).  But if any of the above options apply to you, you may be feeling torn about spending time at home with your baby.    It is okay to love your job and want to go back to it.  It’s also okay to hate your job and be glad you get to stay home and never go back!  If you want a bit of both worlds, the professional and familial, have a think about how flexibility might work for you.

There are a whole raft of options open to mums (and dads) these days in terms of workplace flexibility.  If you think it will work for you, sit down and talk to your boss about options – flexible hours, part-time hours, working from home…  Currently in New Zealand, your workplace is legally obliged to at least consider a request for flexibility on a return from parental leave, although this is no gurantee that it will be agreed to.  As a starter, check in with your manager or HR (in a larger organisation).  It can help your case immensely if you can show your value to the organisation and the benefit to the company (starting with the fact that they get to retain your knowledge and skills in house).  There are heaps of international studies that have shown the financial benefit to employers of retaining staff after parental leave so educate your employer and hopefully they’ll come to the party!

Financial assistance and advice for families

As a family with young children, you may be eligible for some government assistance.  In recent years, New Zealand governments have been more willing to support families so take a look at the Work and Income site and see if you are eligible for a tax credit or ongoing income supplement.  Bear in mind, that with election year, this can bring changes to government assistance.

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) have a free budget advisory service which is excellent.  They can work with you to find out what your income and expenses are, whether there’s a gap, where you’d like to be, and how a new baby are going to impact your life financially.  They can help you with lots of ideas on how to trim your expenses.

The Department of Labour has information about your parental leave entitlements, which in many cases will include payment for a little over the first three months of your baby’s life.

Talk to your bank about options for your mortgage and banking, including how to meet debt repayments while you have a young family.

Financial considerations – working at or outside home

When talking to mothers who have decided to go back to paid work, it seems that the biggest factor for most modern families is money.  Paying that mortgage, servicing credit card debt, or just keeping some spare for the unexpected expense can be a real struggle.  It is a huge change for most families going from two incomes to one.  But you’d be surprised at what you can live on.  If you are considering returning to work out of financial necessity, but don’t otherwise want to, see if you can downsize your outgoings in some of these ways:

  • Downsize the big items – pay less rent or mortgage by shifting to a cheaper area or smaller place.  Stretch your mortgage back out to 25 or 30 years to lower weekly repayments.  Get a smaller, more fuel efficient car. 
  • Reduce expenditure on ‘luxuries’.  This will be an individual thing, but for us it meant CDs and DVDs, going out to dinner, and expensive clothes.  That’s not to say we don’t occasionally splash out – just not on a regular basis.
  • Use the car less and car pool if you can (most capsules can be strapped into another car).  Petrol and running costs for cars is constantly increasing, so taking public transport or walking can help reduce costs (good exercise too!).
  • Take a good look at your expenditure on food.  Now, we’re not suggesting eating less!  But many of us these days spend a lot of our grocery money on convenience foods.  Whether it’s pasta sauce, tortillas, or baby food, the pre-made packaged foods are priced at a premium.  There are some really good ‘from scratch’ recipe books out there (I love the “Destitute Gourmet” series) that give good advice on how to cut your grocery bill and still provide your family with yummy, nutritious food.  Meal planning can help a lot too!
  • Buy second hand.  Kids clothes, furniture, books, you name it, there’s a second hand market out there.  Try online auction websites, local Plunket jumble sales, or just ask around if anyone is selling stuff.  Some of my daughter’s favourite toys have been at bargain prices at a local bring and buy sale for around 10% of the original price – you can’t beat that!  End of season sales are great if you buy ahead for next year too.

And finally, make sure you take into account the costs of going back to paid work – childcare, transport, clothes etc – when you are weighing up what you will bring home at the end of the day. 

Next post considers what kind of assistance you may be entitled to as a family and where to get assistance with budgeting.

Back to the rat-race? Some considerations…

Over and over you will hear people talking about “returning to work”.  What do they think motherhood is, a walk in the park?  We would liken it to more of a rollercoaster ride with huge highs and lows, a bit of screaming, some whooping, white knuckles, and a huge sense of accomplishment and pride.  But that aside, motherhood is joy but it is also WORK.  When someone asks if you are returning to work, it subtly suggests that you might be spending your days as an at-home mum draped on the couch watching soaps on tv.  (And even if there is a bit of that while bubs is napping, hey, everyone else gets a lunch break right?).

So parents don’t re-enter the paid workforce simply because they have nothing better to do.  It is almost always a carefully weighed and sometimes painfully made decision with so many factors taken into consideration.  If you are undecided, or feel that you only have one option but it’s not a choice you would make voluntarily, ponder on some of these things, and see how you feel at the end of it.  At the end of the day, you’ll make a choice that’s driven by the desire to do the best thing for your family, and no-one else can tell you what that is, including us. 

The ideas that follow in the coming posts are not meant to direct you towards going back to paid work or staying at home full-time.  In fact, we both returned to paid positions while our first babies were under one, but managed to juggle this part-time and have our husbands both spending time at home during the working week.  We’ve also both been through the carefully thought through decision to spend more time at home, for less money.  So the ideas in the coming posts are really meant to get your thinking about what your family’s priorities are and then embrace those and make it work for you.

Labour and birth support – 2012

If you, or someone you know, are expecting a baby between early March and October 2012, read on…

An important part of my midwifery training includes sharing the experiences of pregnancy, birth and after with women.

How does it work?

Initially, we would meet to see if you were comfortable. You can speak to my lecturer and complete the consent process, then starting in Feb next year (2012) I would attend a number of your antenatal appointments, be present at the birth, and visit you several times after that.

What do you get out of it?

I’m there to support you at whatever level you are comfortable with. That might involve being there to listen, supporting you practically during labour, supporting your supporters – whatever works for you. You would also be making a wonderful contribution to the education of future midwives.

What do I get out of it?

I get to observe and learn more about our maternity service through YOUR eyes, and learn about the ways midwives can support women. You can be working with a midwife, an obstetrician, or a hospital team – all are great learning experiences for me! I’ve always found it a huge privilege to share this time with women and their families!

More about me… 

I’m a mother and love working with pregnant women and their families. I’ve been a childbirth and breastfeeding educator for the last four years and have supported a number of women during birth and after. I’m based in north Wellington.

If you think this all sounds great…

Drop me an email (caraandluke@xtra.co.nz) and I can answer any questions you have.

The election and paid parental leave

One Stuff reader asks political parties about their policies on paid parental leave.

What do you think?

Here is an interesting point to mull over… as things currently stand paid parental leave is provided only to mothers/parents in paid work. On the surface of it this makes sense – the rationale being that they are being compensated for the paid work they cannot do while caring for their children. However this means that families who choose to have a parent at home full time (particularly in the case of subsequent children) are financially penalised for this choice. Does this send a message that we see ‘at home parents’ as second class citizens? Or that the work they do is not valuable? Would our society look different if we offered (for example) a paid parental stipend to ALL parents for the first 13 weeks (or longer)?

A few more articles on the topic…


We’re interested in your thoughts and experiences.

Did you access paid parental leave?

Have you returned to work? Why? Why not?

Do you think New Zealand’s current parental leave provisions are adequate?

What would you like to see change?

Elections 2011 – What about families?

Do you know who you will be voting for in the elections?

You may be interested in this brief blurb from each of the main parties about how they will be supporting families.


Pamper yourself

It’s so easy with a newborn for YOU to fall to the bottom of the list. Time is at a premium and so is energy. But sometimes if you can just do something nice for youself, it will give you a little zap of energy and remind you how fabulous you really are…

So here are some quick and easy pamper ideas:

Take a long bubble bath… (you can always take baby in with you, or even better pass him to Dad and soak in peace and quiet).

Have a foot bath – soak your feet in a basin of warm water. If you have some put a few drops of essential oil in. Bonus – you can do this while feeding! Double bonus – if your partner is around hit them up for a foot massage. Of course they may be face down on the couch snoring…

Buy or get out from the library a good book you’ve been dying to read. Great for those midnight feeds!

Paint your toenails. They are far enough away that you won’t be able to see any mistakes and instead you can just enjoy how pretty they look.

Take baby for a walk in the buggy – if she falls asleep treat yourself to a hot choc at the nearest cafe.

Get out a chick flick you’ve been keen to see and watch it – another good one for the middle of the night wake-fests!

Treat yourself to fresh flowers. If the budget won’t stand it buy some seeds (super cheap) and plant them – you’ll be able to pick your own next summer! Or pick some from a friends garden.

Check your emails and say hi to a friend.

Go to bed early.

Light a candle, put on your favourite CD, and put your feet up. If baby is too unsettled to chill on the couch do a little dancing instead!

Spritz a bit of your favourite perfume on.

If you are spending a lot of time in your trackkies or pjs – why not treat yourself to a pretty new pair? You don’t even have to leave the house if you don’t want to – shop online! Try ezibuy.co.nz

Make yourself a cup of tea and watch the sunset. Or sunrise…



What are your favourite “quick fixes” to lift your spirits when you are feeling a bit blah?