The maternal instinct is often seen as a sort of “superpower” that mothers possess and which would allow them to better understand their infant. But does it really exist? And the men in all that ?
The maternal instinct is the subject of many questions. The first people concerned, the young mothers themselves, sometimes have difficulty understanding this notion. This maternal instinct would be a kind of connection between the mother and her baby, allowing her to understand the baby’s slightest cries. According to Corinne Antoine, clinical psychologist specializing in perinatal care, “this maternal impulse, which is not systematic, is defined as a form of psychological, emotional and bodily state, which would lead the mother to have a protective, reassuring attitude for her child, and which provides him with what he needs “.
Is the maternal instinct innate or acquired?
Corinne Antoine believes that the maternal instinct is not only innate: “There is also an element of acquired knowledge.” In animals, instinct is genetically programmed. For humans, it’s not quite the same. There will indeed be something primitive in the desire to protect the child and ensure his safety. But it is also something that has been built since childhood, particularly with what we observe from our parents, and which will be passed on. “He will also develop through contact with his own child, by observing him, by watching how he reacts to certain things, by discovering his tastes”specifies the psychologist
Do all mothers have a maternal instinct?
For some mothers, the maternal instinct will develop during pregnancy. They will talk to their stomach, feel that they already have a relationship with the child… “For some women, it is something that is there. For others, it will be built, enriched gradually, thanks to the bond and attachment to the child. This attachment will become develop thanks to hormones, but also through contact with the child”underlines Corinne Antoine. “We must not confuse the maternal instinct and maternal love. In humans, it is love that comes first”she emphasizes.
In the press, we sometimes read stories of mothers who saved their child from a serious illness that doctors confused with a less worrying pathology, precisely thanks to their maternal instinct. However, it would not necessarily be the instinct that would allow them to understand that their offspring is doing worse than one might think. “I think it’s mental construction. Because we carried the child, we’ve known him since he was very little, and we know his reactions. So we feel if it’s more serious than this. that the medical profession says, because we know that it does not act in the same way. It is therefore difficult to know if it is really instinct”indicates Corinne Antoine.
In the same way, if we can hear the baby cry better at night, if we distinguish the cry of our child among others, or if we understand what his cries mean, it is not necessarily because we have a maternal instinct. “When you have a child, you are no longer alone. Obviously, you have a more attentive ear and you get to know their reactions”explains the psychologist.
Do men also have a paternal instinct?
We often talk about maternal instinct, but rarely (if ever) of paternal instinct. However, men too can develop this ability. “The human brain has three major periods of plasticity, where it changes a lot: at the beginning of childhood, during adolescence, then during pregnancy. And the father also has this plasticity of the brain. He too can develop this parental instinct as we have just defined it”, assures Corinne Antoine.