Botox may botch communication between mothers and babies -


Why botox and babies don't mix

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A tiny dose of toxin is meant to smooth wrinkles by paralyzing certain facial muscles, but it may also paralyze feelings and a parent's ability to connect with her baby.

"A huge amount of the attachment babies make to mothers and caregivers is through facial expressions," says Leslie Petruk, who is a child and family therapist.

About 50 percent of human communication is non-verbal according to Lisa Slattery-Walker, the sociology chair at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Our body position, hands and face all send signals, but when you add Botox to the mix, it could limit some forms of communication.

"You're really cutting off a big part of the potential communication with the baby," Slattery-Walker says.

If you take away full facial expression, you may be taking away some of the 'talking,' so to speak.

That's because mimicking between a mother and her infant is critical to a child's ability to learn and communicate.

"There may be a possibility that, down the road, those kids won't be as good at reading other people's emotions," Slattery-Walker says.

Research suggests the same thing may happen to the mother.

A study published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science says Botox can hinder our ability to understand the emotions of others.

The reason is because we naturally imitate each other's expressions when talking, and this sends a facial feedback signal to our brain, which allows us to interpret the meaning.

"If your face is frozen, it absolutely is going to limit your ability to fully communicate," Petruk says.

A 'frozen face' should never be a side effect of Botox, according to Plastic Surgeon Jeffrey Ditesheim.

A stiff, flat face is likely the result of Botox that's been botched by a poorly trained practitioner.

"It would probably be pretty confusing if you were a baby," Ditesheim says. "You wouldn't know if that person was happy or sad. You'd have to go by the inflection of their voice."

If a Botox procedure is correctly performed, however, plastic surgeons say a few less facial creases on one's face shouldn't interfere with infant communication.

Besides, babies interact with more than just mom.

"If they lived in a household where everybody had Botox, that might be a problem," Petruk adds.

Having a Botox-filled face, on the other hand, could offer other benefits for a mother and her child.  

If Botox makes a mom happier, that may make for a happier baby and family.

It's hard to tell how drastic Botox injections may or may not stifle a parent's feelings and facial communication, but no doubt, the squealing baby staring back into their seamless eyes will let certainly let them know.

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Additional Information

The following explanation about Botox is from the National Institutes of Health (Source: <

  • Botox is a drug made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum - same toxin that causes a life-threatening type of food poisoning called botulism <>.
  • In small doses it can temporarily remove wrinkles, treat underarm sweating, ease cervical dystonia (neck/shoulder contractions), relieve uncontrollable blinking and misaligned eyes.
  • Injections weaken or paralyze certain muscles or they block certain nerve endings.
  • Effects last 3 to 4 months.
  • Side effects include flu-like symptoms, headache, pain at injection site and upset stomach.
  • Should not be used if pregnant or breast feeding.

The following information was obtained from a CNN news report (Source: <

  • The book "The Female Brain" by Louann Brizendine notes that female babies are particularly sensitive to their mother's facial cues and moods.
  • Babies also receive information via touch, singing, tone and sighs, so its hard to isolate what effect (if any) Botox might have.

A study published by the University of Southern California found:

  • Botox lowers empathy, the ability to recognize feelings.
  • Adults who had Botox, as compared to adults who had Restylane (which doesn't affect muscle function) noted that we read other people's emotions partly by mimicking their facial expressions.
  • The study's author pointed out that mimicry is how children and mother's communicate, and it may be innate.
  • In "blank face" experiments where researchers study an infants' reaction while their mother's display no expression, it was observed that an infants' social and emotional development might be linked to the emotional state of the caregiver.
  • Infants were found to gesture or try to get a response from a mother who was depressed.
  • If lack of expression continues for a minute or two, the babies sometimes start crying because of the lack of response.
  • Plastic surgeons point out that not being able to move a single facial muscle is likely the result of an irresponsible physician or one who had little or poor training.
  • Small amounts of Botox should only reduce the appearance of anger, blunting expression, which may actually be good for the child.

The following is from a New York Times article entitled "Botox reduces the ability to empathize" (Source: <

  • According to a new study by David T. Neal, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, and Tanya L. Chartrand, a professor of marketing and psychology at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, people who have had Botox injections are physically unable to mimic emotions of others, which takes away their ability to understand the feelings of others.
  • The toxin might interfere with "embodied cognition," the way in which facial feedback helps people perceive emotion.
  • In theory, a listener unconsciously imitates another person's expression (mimicry) which then generates a signal from their face to their brain, allowing them to understand the meaning.
  • In one experiment, women who injected with Botox within the last two weeks were offered $200 to look at a set of photographs of human eyes and match them with human emotions. Restylane users performed the same tasks, which were in both cases conducted via computer.
  • The Botox users were significantly less accurate at decoding facial expressions than those using Restylane.
  • Botox doesn't go to the brain (the poison doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier), but it does seem to affect our ability to think.

The following details are from a study conducted by Barnard College (Source: <

  • Researchers at Barnard College found that facial expressions appear to play a role in how your emotions develop, not just in how you display them for others to see.
  • Botox inhibits the feedback to the brain which is communicating the response between our expressions and our feelings.
  • The study was published in the journal "Emotion."
  • The following information on infant communication is from WebMD (Source: <
  • Smile often at your baby, especially when your baby is cooing, gurgling, or otherwise vocalizing with baby talk.
  • Look at your baby as he or she babbles and laughs, rather than looking away, interrupting, or talking with someone else.
  • Be patient as you try to decode your infant's baby talk and nonverbal communication, like facial expressions, gurgling, or babbling sounds that could signal either frustration or joy.
  • Make time to give your baby lots of loving attention, so your baby can "speak" to you with his or her baby talk, even when you're busy with other tasks.
  • By imitating your baby, you'll send an important message: what your baby is feeling and trying to communicate matters to you.
  • Have back-and-forth conversations in baby talk to teach your baby the give-and-take of adult conversation.
  • Imitate your baby's vocalizations -- "ba-ba" or "goo-goo" -- then wait for your baby to make another sound, and repeat that back.
  • Do your best to respond, even when you don't understand what your baby is trying to say.
  • Reinforce communication by smiling and mirroring your baby's facial expressions.
  • Because gestures are a way babies try to communicate, imitate your baby's gestures, as well.
  • Babies learn to speak by imitating the sounds they hear around them. So the more you talk to your baby, the faster your baby will acquire speech and language skills.
  • Many adults use a special tone of voice when talking baby talk -- a high-pitched voice with exaggerated expression. This natural baby talk mimics the female voice, which babies the world over associate with feeding and comfort. Keep in mind that talking "baby talk" won't prevent or delay your infant from learning adult speech later.
  • Engage your baby's listening skills by talking often to your baby throughout your day, narrating your activities together. Talk as you're feeding, dressing, carrying, and bathing your baby, so he or she begins to associate these sounds of language with everyday objects and activities.
  • Repeat simple words like "mama" and "bottle" often and clearly so your baby begins to hear familiar words and associate them with their meaning.

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