It went far beyond wanting to nibble little baby toes—I wanted to devour my children. Just eat them all up. Not literally, of course. Well, I don’t think I meant it literally.
Turns out, I’m not alone. Many people want to munch on some adorable, squishy baby cheeks. I’m sure you’ve heard—or even said—the following: “That baby is so cute, I just want to eat her up.” But don’t worry, it’s totally normal. In fact, wanting to consume little bits of cuteness may be a good thing. Science even says so.
Just last year, a study claimed that new baby smell is addictive to mothers—baby smell lights up the same parts of the brain as other addictive things like drugs, alcohol and really yummy food. This helps with the bonding process between mother and newborn.
Read more: Why moms love that new baby smell>
Last week, the Association of Psychology Science published a study that says “cute aggression” is actually a good thing, as it helps a person regulate their overall emotions. The desire to pinch your baby’s cheeks is similar to crying tears of joys—those opposite emotions all help restore emotional balance.
When the participants in the study were shown pictures of cute infants they revealed expressions of high aggression, saying they wanted to pinch the babies’ cheeks and “eat them up.” A few minutes later, the people who had the highest “aggressive” responses to the photos also had a lower level of positive emotion at the time—leading researchers to believe that “cute aggression” was helping them regulate and balance out their overall emotions.
You may be wondering why scientists even study such a strange phenomenon, but the researchers believe these kinds of studies can help people understand relationships and emotional states a bit better: “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,” says one of the lead researchers.
So, eat up your baby and cry those tears of joy because it’s making you a more emotionally balanced person—and a better parent.