Maternal gaze and maternal function: “I am looked at, therefore I exist”

The importance of the maternal function in the first moments of our birth is an essential thing, Although this often goes unnoticed.

To understand how important it is in our lives, it is worth considering what happens during the stage where it plays a role in the protection, education and proportionality of children.

What is the maternal function?

Maternal function in infants is understood as the desire to provide physical and emotional nourishment to infants.

You must not only take care of your physical well-being (food, shelter, toilets, cleaning, rest …) but it also involves mild or positive affective stimuli. Children who are deprived of these emotional stimuli often die in the condition called hospitalism.

Positive affective stimuli

Mild or positive affective stimuli are those that arise naturally from the desire to love this new creature. They have to do with the sweet, gentle tone of voice, the smiles, the hugs and hugs, and the constant gaze in each other’s eyes.

Often, mothers who contemplate their children “get lost in the gaze of their loved one, and it is found in the gaze of their mother.” It is important to mention that for biological reasons, mothers tend to find it easier to form closer emotional bonds with their children. Therefore, they more spontaneously perform the maternal function.

However, the maternal function can be taken on by anyone who has the emotional disposition and skills to show affection.

The need for emotional contact

A baby is that human being totally dependent on the care of others. She is a creature with innate tendencies to growth and development, but for the moment she is part of the bond with this maternal figure, which will allow her to continue her own development.

From the start, the maternal function is limited to providing shelter, support, protection, protection from dangers and covering their physiological and emotional needs. It is a process that mothers learn to manage while breastfeeding their children.; hence the emotional importance of understanding the importance of breastfeeding.

The value of breastfeeding

When mothers breastfeed their children, they begin a warm bond (mother-child) supported by looks, caresses, gestures, tone of voice, care … In this link a kind of complicity is generated between the two; in this way the mother learns to know the needs of her little one in the minimum calls for attention that the latter makes. In other words, he easily manages to distinguish a cry of hunger from a cry of sleep, as well as to know with a simple glance of his child if he is sick.

It is a special psychological condition that mothers develop in the weeks after birth. Emotionally, her baby is still part of her and therefore shows great sensitivity to what he expresses.

Babies learn to recognize their mother’s face in the most pleasant moments they experience at the beginning of their life: breastfeeding. Feeding and looking at the mother’s face allows them to create that relationship of unity where the mother reflects to him what he means to her.

The gaze mirror

The gaze that takes place within the framework of the maternal function is the first mirror where the child begins to differentiate himself. and react to the other, as he realizes the response generated by his presence in the other; hence the importance of repaying the gestures, movements and constant sounds emitted by the little one, because it is the moment that begins to be discovered as a person.

At this moment, the child depends on the “gaze”, the presence, the care of this maternal figure. These are the first steps towards healthy construction of self-concept, self-esteem and security, and if there are any abnormalities in this phase, developmental and behavioral problems may arise. Some disorders that arise in adulthood can have their roots in this type of faulty bond made during the first six months of life.

Breastfeeding in today’s environment

Unfortunately, today, mothers are extremely limited in the possibilities of forming this kind of bond with their babyOr they are unaware of the importance of “watching” and imparting security and tranquility. They assume breastfeeding by guaranteeing only food. For example, while breastfeeding you usually talk on the phone, check Facebook, read the newspaper … Your attention is on something else.

Sometimes breastfeeding is also assumed as the mother’s right to breastfeed, adding a position of triumph in favor of women when they are allowed or facilitated in the social sphere to perform comfortably in public without censorship. In both cases, it should be remembered that we cannot fall into the error of assuming the sun as a mother’s right, the child has the right to be looked at, pampered, cared for, felt while being fed.

The evolution of maternal function

As the child grows “emotionally” he begins to discover his own needs to explore the environment.. This dynamic begins with behaviors such as sucking your finger, looking at objects, acquiring better and bigger postures, controlling your body, throwing and holding objects, etc.

It evolves in complete safety towards a better dependence. The child is attentive to his environment, receptive and willing to capture sounds, movements, textures, etc.. Therefore, he begins to pull away from the mother’s gaze. This process takes six months to three years.

Favorite toy

At this stage, It is common for children to acquire an object, whether it is a cradle, pillow, suction cup, or just a toy.. The little ones need this object to alleviate the anxiety of separation from the family and to be able to start exploring the world.

It is the first membership they acquire, it is “almost sacred” to them and accompanies them everywhere, whatever their status. It may stink, be dirty, damaged, broken, discolored, but this item has everything you need to detach yourself from your mother and feel safe in new spaces.

It is recommended to maintain this child-object union. It will generally be able to detach itself from its object only when it is linked to the feeling of security. Sometimes parents ask if they can wash it or replace it with a new one, but it is important to clarify that for the child it is very important to keep what he has chosen and to feel safe that it is within its reach, that is to say it is not derogatory. we make him comments like: “See how ugly he is, don’t be a pig, let’s change-“. The object means a source of security for the child that goes beyond what we can understand as adults.


He finally begins to hide from his mother, plays to disappear or to make her disappear; it is the beginning or the first steps towards independence. The first secret games begin to be given; the child explores the world but with the security of being able to return to his place of comfort: the arms of the person who protects him and gives him affection.

It’s at that moment the baby and the mother must be ready to undertake this first separation safely and quietly; without pressures or limitations. The mother must offer her child new relationships and opportunities to understand his environment. Now the child will be ready to begin the facet of the game, where he ultimately does not need “his mother’s gaze”, he focuses on the great outdoors playing in his own world and integrating the participation of other children in it. his agenda dwell. He is ready to continue to develop as an emotionally independent and stable being.

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