My wife has said many times that our son is so cute and adorable that she wants to gobble him up.
Why do mothers sometimes feel an urge to bite (or tightly hug) their children?
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There is actually a reasonably well researched explanation, and it has nothing to do with etymology.
When we are overwhelmed with a strong positive experience, our brain attempts to regulate this by simultaneously producing an aggressive response to the same experience; these opposing reactions are known as dimorphous expressions.
When your wife says she wants to eat the baby, she literally can't handle how cute your baby is, and her brain is attempting to regulate her emotions with an aggressive response!
According to Yale University psychological scientist and lead researcher Oriana Aragon, this is a mechanism that helps us to regulate emotion and is completely normal and healthy. “These insights advance our understanding of how people express and control their emotions, which is importantly related to mental and physical health, the quality of relationships with others, and even how well people work together,” she said.
Re: Study published in Psychological Science; co-authors include Margaret S. Clark, Rebecca L. Dyer and John A. Bargh of Yale.
@Ida Thank you for your suggestion; you're absolutely right, a link to the study is necessary: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/01/27/0956797614561044
It's just a phrase used to stress how much she loves her! She's not going to do her any harm:)
I sometimes have a tiny urge to bite my LO's ear when she's on my arms being cute and sweet. I never do it though. So perhaps there is something literal to this phrase, as we tend to kiss and hug and cuddle with our kids.
I've said the same thing about my son and I'm his father. Will I actually cannibalize him? No. But I will rub against him or kiss him or hug him. He's a baby, he is cute, of course I want to get as close to him as possible.
Perhaps it's an evolutionary response to a small child so that the parents will look after him/her and will not be abandoned. Perhaps this response evolved so that parents that did feel this way saw their genetic legacy continue more successfully than those that did not do this.