Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields and radio waves to give detailed photos inside the body. Usually getting an MRI is associated with something unpleasant such as a closer look at a part of the body that hurts or is not working right.
However, for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) neuroscientist and mother Rebecca Saxe, an MRI has a more positive take: getting an inside look while snuggling with and kissing your baby. This special MRI scanner was designed to fit a mother and baby while her baby fell asleep on her chest. This MRI wasn’t taken to find answers to something wrong; it was taken simply because Saxe wanted to share the beauty of this insightful, beautiful image.
This MRI shows what we may expect to see—differences in brain and skull formation and development between a baby and an adult. A Smithsonian Magazine article by Saxe also points out what else this stunning image shows: the fragility, love, innocence, and the beauty of mother and baby in a universal way beyond skin color or looks.
A September 2019 a Facebook post also shows another layer to this image: the release of the hormone oxytocin in the brain of the mother and baby.
Oxytocin, often called the love or cuddle hormone, is released from the pituitary gland when showing emotion like kissing or cuddling. Interestingly, oxytocin also plays a very important role in childbirth and breastfeeding. When a mother goes into labor, oxytocin signals the uterine muscles to contract. Oxytocin is also released during breastfeeding to initiate the release of milk.
What this MRI also suggests is kissing your baby releases oxytocin not just for the mother but for the baby, stirring up feelings of attachment and affection.
Science is affirming what many of us have intuitively known since the beginning: kiss and cuddle your babies to let them know they are loved and attached to you.