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Motherhood...the sheer sound of it brings enduring memories. A mother’s touch, her voice, her cooking, and the smile of approval in her eyes. Science has recently proven that there is a transference of emotion and programming from birth and infancy between a mother and her child--a type of communication, if you will, that occurs when the infant looks into its mother’s eyes. So what is this programming? How does it work and what effect does it have on the life of the child? What happens if it never happened to the infant? What happens if the mother is blind? These questions and more can be answered through a term called “triadic exchanges” in which infants learn social skills.

The gaze into a mother’s eyes brings security and well being to the child. When she gazes at another person, it makes the infant look at what she is gazing at, and introduces the infant to others in the world. This is known as a triadic exchange. So now their world is no longer just one person, their mother, but a third party which teaches them the art and skill of organizing their social skills and interaction.

Interestingly, if a mother is blind, it does not adversely affect the child’s development. A study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B showed no deficit in their advancement. The sheer fact that the infant looks into the mother’s eyes helps with connectedness and emotional grounding.

Looking into mom’s eyes and face teaches facial recognition and expressions of emotions and is primarily how the child learns in the first few months of life. Additionally, infants tend to show a preference to viewing faces with open eyes rather than closed eyes, thus stressing the importance of the mother or caregiver’s gaze.

Some health benefits to gazing into the mother’s eyes is a lower incidence of autism, or spectrum disorders, better social skills, higher learning capacity, and emotional groundedness.

The beauty of a mother’s gaze is that the child can feel the emotions of love, security, safety, and overall well-being by connecting with her through eye-to-eye contact. This sets the stage for the future development of social skills, visual recognition of people, and readiness for social interaction in the world.

A big thank you to science and mothers for proving what we already know--that the values in life can be taught to a child “through a mother's eyes,” setting the course for proper interaction for life skills and relationships.

 

References:

1. Kate Yandell, Proceedings of the Royal Society B ,04/10/2013.

2. Maxson J.McDowell, Biological Theory, MIT Press, 05/04/2011.

 

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Ask Dr. Stewart Your Eye Care Questions

What can be expected during a contact lens fitting?

A patient can expect to have a different experience when having a contact lens fitting. In addition to the eyeglass exam, questions will be asked to determine which contact lens will work best for them. Will they want to leave the lenses in their eyes overnight or will they remove them every day? Will they wear them only occasionally or will they be for everyday use? Do they want a contact lens that they throw away every day or do they want a contact lens that they have to clean and disinfect? If the patient is over age 40 and has a compromised ability to see up close, how will they see up close with their contact lenses? Will they wear readers over their distant contacts, or will they wear multifocal contacts, or will they wear monovision?

Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Experiencing dry eye symptoms is more common as we grow older, particularly in people 50 years of age and older. Hormonal changes in women who are experiencing menopause or who are post-menopausal. Inflammation in our body can affect the tear gland's ability to produce tears. Eye or health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's Syndrome can be associated with Dry Eyes. Environmental conditions such as dry winter air, dry indoor heated air, working on the computer, and wearing contact lenses can cause Dry Eyes.

Are there advantages to single-use contact lenses? What are they?

Single-use daily wear contacts are convenient to the patient and a healthy recommendation from their eye doctor. At the end of the day, the patient only has to dispose of the contacts. There is no need to take the contacts out to clean and disinfect them. The patients time and money spent on solutions and caring for them are eliminated. Not to mention that the next time they wear a contact, they will be wearing a brand new contact! The single best recommendation your eye doctor can make is to recommend single-use daily wear contacts. They are the healthiest contact that can be worn. The contact lens pathology issues of wearing the same contact for two or four weeks such as neovascularization, microcystic edema, and bacterial infections are greatly reduced.

What is an eye infection?

Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and can affect just one eye or both. Two common eye infections are conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) and lid styes which are swollen lid bumps that can also be painful. Common signs of an eye infection are pain, itching, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye, photosensitivity, redness or small red lines in the white of the eye, discharge of yellow pus that may be crusty upon awaking, and tears.

What happens during a typical Diabetic Eye Exam?

Your Eye Doctor will evaluate the back of your eye called the Retina to check for leaking blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated blood sugars damage the walls of the blood vessels. The vessel walls may thicken, leak, develop clots, close off, or grow balloon-like defects called microaneurysms.

My eyes tear all the time. Why do you call it Dry Eyes?

Your eyes have extra tears because your eyes produce extra tears to combat irritation and dryness. A better way to describe Dry Eyes is tear film instability, which refers to the composition of your tears not being in the proper composition. Stopping eyes from producing extra tears is a goal in the treatment of Dry Eyes.

At what age should my child have his/her eyes examined?

If you ask 10 different Doctors you will get 10 different answers. Newborns have their eyes checked in the birthing ward for starters. From birth to age 5 their eyes are growing. At age 5 is a good time to schedule a regular eye examination, however, if any unusual eye behavior is observed under age 5 an eye exam should be scheduled at that time. Unusual eye behavior such as eye squinting, a head tilt, or having to get close to see.