Maternal Instinct

How our biological attachment works.

Andrea Rudy

9/4/20221 min read

What is maternal instinct?

Women are by nature maternally sensitive to the emotional and physical needs of their children. We have a biological attachment to our young. As women, our maternal responses may be enhanced by environmental factors, but they are basic female human traits determined by our chromosomal make-up at conception.

Our biological behaviors are activated by the release of hormones during many different stages of life, starting at our infancy and continuing through puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood.

Oxytocin is a natural hormone known for its roles in female reproduction. It is released in large amounts during labor and breastfeeding, but it also plays a role in sexual activity, social recognition, bonding, and maternal behaviors.

Oxytocin is responsible for bringing in what is specifically called “maternal behavior.” In one study, if oxytocin antagonists were given to sheep and rat females after childbirth, they did not exhibit typical maternal behavior. By contrast, virgin female sheep showed maternal behavior toward foreign lambs upon cerebrospinal fluid infusion of oxytocin, which they would not do otherwise.

Studies show that children growing up with the experience of strong maternal bonding are more likely to have better physical, cognitive and psychosocial outcomes as adults. Maternal bonding is deeply significant in early childhood development, as it affects a child’s survival and healthy future development.

By contrast, poor bonding between a mother and child can be detrimental not only to the long-term health and development of the child but also to the wellbeing of the mother. Maternal instinct is not just a pleasant side effect of motherhood - it is an imperative contribution to the existence of a society.

Women are biologically hardwired to nurture. Our gender and the resulting behaviors are not social constructs. They are genetic, determined at conception and maturing throughout the stages of life. Anyone who tells you differently is anti-science and anti-woman.