You take your baby to the pediatrician for her regular check-ups, vaccines, and at the first sign of a fever. You keep her away from runny-nose friends and steer clear of the sun. You babyproof your home and gently bandage her boo-boos. All to make sure your child grows up healthy and strong. But compelling new research is showing that the strength of your emotional bond with your baby may well trump all of those other measures you take to help her thrive.
A close attachment can prevent diseases, boost immunity, and enhance IQ in your baby, says Deepak Chopra, M.D., the endocrinologist turned mind-body -- medicine guru, Parenting contributing editor, and coauthor of Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. Those hugs and kisses are a force of nature more powerful than ever thought, says Dr. Chopra. Mother-child bonding has evolved to become a complex physiological process that enlists not just our hearts, but our brains, hormones, nerves, and almost every part of our bodies. On the following pages, you'll see that process at work in 3-D images from TheVisualMD.com. (All of the images from TheVisualMD.com and associated research were made possible by a grant from Mead Johnson Nutrition, the makers of Enfamil.) Here, an inside look at how the bond forms, how to strengthen it, and why TLC may be more powerful than DNA.