Baby Boys are More Vulnerable to Stress Than Baby Girls. Bring on More Cuddles!
Sitting with my beautiful soul mumma, cuddling her latest creation, her perfect newborn baby boy, number three after two gorgeous girls, chatting the way mums do over feeding, sleeping, grizzles and grumbles, the thing that struck me the most is that after the experience of her two little ladies, superb, independent sleepers the parts she is adjusting most to having a boy is his higher demand for cuddles and constant contact. Four years in with my boy, my constant co cuddler, I had to suppress my giggle and my somewhat smug “I told you so” as now, in my experience, now living in co existence with my little girl and my little boy, my journey with both has been profoundly different!
From the day he was born my little fella has always felt happiest cozied up to mum or dad, anxious and fretful through those long, disturbed, newborn nights he would more often than not end up sound asleep, prime position on my husbands chest, safe, snug and secure. We had never intended to co sleep but after months of tears and despair, not just from the baby, fatigue and frustration consuming we resolved that what was best for our family was to allow him in with us, for some reason he needed that extra bit of comfort and reassurance and we were prepared to give it to him. Outside of sleep our sensitive little soul craves and seeks contact whether it be for calming, communication or consoling. That’s just him and we love him for it.
Cue the arrival of our daughter and I was fully prepared to share my sleeping space and my personal space once more. What I got instead was miss independent 2015! A self settling, self soothing machine with an unequivocal, no non sense, I can do it myself and probably better than you attitude! She is by far more self resilient and self reliant than my son, she takes a tumble, she dusts herself off and soldiers on, she is rarely frightened or startled and confidently finds her way in the world. This isn’t necessarily any better or worse, just an acutely different experience, for me, raising a boy and a girl!
So it seems that science may now have the answer, in an article first seen in Scary Mommy, a study by Dr. Allan Schore, a clinical psychologist from UCLA, is urging us to stop treating baby boys like little “tough guys.” In his latest paper, “All Our Sons: The Developmental Neurobiology and Neuroendocrinology of Boys at Risk,” Dr. Schore explains that baby boys actually are more vulnerable than we might think, and may in fact need more coddling and TLC than baby girls.
He goes on to say that there are actually major differences between male and female brain development, even in the earliest stages of life, specifically that the right brain area of baby boys develops at a slower rate than baby girls. Baby boys have less self-regulating stress hormones than baby girls (even in utero), so they are more vulnerable to the effects of environmental, physical, and social stressors. Girls, on the other hand, seem to be born with more resilience to these stressors.
Dr. Schore believes that these vulnerabilities in baby boys are what make them more susceptible to neuropsychiatric disorders that appear early in life like autism, early onset schizophrenia, and attention deficit disorder (girls seem to be more vulnerable to the disorders that appear later in life). Dr. Schore points out that baby boys are also more likely to show frustration than baby girls at 6 months old, and at 12 months, baby boys show more intense reactions to negative stimuli.
I will never forget taking my brand new baby boy in for his newborn foot prick and vaccination. Before us was a little girl born exactly the same day, little sting of the needle and not even a peep from the little one. My boys turn, sting of the needle and you would have thought the world had come to an end! The nurse, knowingly turns to me and said “its always the boys that cry!” Their sensitive little souls are on edge and just not ready for it !
So what to do with this new understanding? Dr. Schore advises that parents should be extra responsive to their baby boy’s needs, and be unafraid of showing affection or attachment. “In light of the male infant’s slower brain maturation, the secure mother’s attachment-regulating function as a sensitively responsive, interactive affect regulator of his immature right brain in the first year is essential to optimal male socioemotional development.”
In other words, boys or girls, an extra bit of love and cuddle time can go a long way in helping raise strong, happy and resilient little ones! For boys, in particular, it allows us to embrace their softer, sensitive sides, providing support and understanding for their insecurities. They are not born and should not be labeled as “tough guys” but more so be given the extra nurturing so that we can foster strength and confidence in our future young men. Any excuse for an extra cuddle !