Living"The baby's first three months determine the rest of...

"The baby's first three months determine the rest of his life", we interviewed the psychotherapist Encarna Muñoz

Becoming parents is a new path to explore that we all want to be as well prepared as possible. To achieve this, it is necessary to change to adapt to the needs of our children and help them initiate the bond even before birth and, above all, in the very first moments of life.

And it is that according to the psychotherapist Encarna Muñoz in her new book, scientific and informative at the same time, the first three months determine the rest of our lives. Hence the importance of offering them both physical and mental support.

Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and Master in Psychoanalysis, offers in ‘The beginning of life: The transcendence of the first months of life’ a new approach, based on the early development of mental health, intelligence and personality traits of our children.

It deals positively with the origin of many psychological imbalances that some children develop as a result of a poor bond with their parents during the first months of life.

We spoke with Encarna about the parents’ relationship with their children to protect and give them confidence, but also about how the couple copes with parenthood, the mixed feelings when pregnancy does not arrive, and non-biological children, issues that Encarna He gives them a lot of importance, since we delay motherhood more and more.

El principio de la vida: La transcendencia de los primeros meses de vida (Libro práctico)

The beginning of life: The transcendence of the first months of life (Practical book)

Today on Amazon for € 17.00

On what do you base yourself to ensure that the first three months determine the rest of our life?

We know that the human being experiences the maximum neuronal development in the first months of life and even earlier, during the gestational period. This reality indicates to us the importance that the experiences of this time acquire and the mark they can leave on the morphology of the brain.

But the most relevant thing is that the initial experiences are not only made up of physical sensations , but there is also a connection that science has not yet been able to verify of the newborn with its environment, especially with its mother and that determines the development of some capacities and not others, as the infinite interactions between them evolve. Which means that the psycho-emotional aspects of the environment intervene and translate into the physical development of the brain.

And this is something exciting. That is, how emotional aspects of the child’s relationship with his mother determine what physiological functioning and what neural networks are going to be pre-established in the child’s brain and which will partly condition future brain functioning. No other moment of growth will be so determining, because at no other moment is growth so superlative as at this time.

Does that mean that if we have done it wrong they will be unhappy for the rest of their lives?

Fortunately, it is not so decisive. Only in cases of serious “depravity” can the injuries be irreversible.

It is important to bear in mind that the need for links at this time is as important, or perhaps even more, than the food itself.

There are babies in hospices or with serious emotional deficiencies that, even being well fed and hygienically cared for, do not develop correctly due to the lack of a sufficiently stable bond from which to grow.

In principle, the desired babies will not have a lack of bond. In them, what can condition growth will be its quality. Parents and society must be aware of the dedication that this period requires, that it cannot be delegated to third parties and that it is irreducible. That is, it cannot be done otherwise because the child’s needs are what they are and we cannot change them. In this period, therefore, the adaptation should be almost complete.

Knowing and accepting this reality is what has to help parents in their almost exclusive dedication, so that everything flows instinctively knowing that, basically, what their baby requires is their dedicated dedication.

In this period the most basic traits of the future personality are traced, which are a combination between the personality that the child presents genetically and the interaction with the outside world.

For a child who has not felt certain sensations at the beginning of his life, it will be more difficult that later, throughout his childhood, he can feel or develop them.

However, as long as the deficit has not been so excessive as to irreversibly injure it, it will be possible to modulate it or even heal it completely , especially during the rest of childhood and even into adulthood. During the rest of childhood, deficiencies can be compensated, if any, although this will require a little more dedication and energy both on the part of the parents and the child himself.

If everything has worked spontaneously, it will be easier for the child, growing up safe and feeling that everything is as reliable, as it was when he began to become aware and feel that he was separated from his mother.

You affirm that “the child is a fetus until he is ten years old.” In what you base?

The human psyche begins in the first experiences of differentiation of the baby and its mother. Something that happens precisely during the first months. If the baby does not manage to perceive himself as a separate being and with a certain self-awareness, the rest of the growth will suffer. These months are only the beginning of the psyche, the base on which the rest of the psychic development will be based, but the complexity or subtlety of the basic traits that are established in these first experiences, are acquired during the rest of childhood and will continue to evolve. throughout life.

The child can be considered as a “fetus” or dialectically as such, up to the age of ten, at which point we could say of the child that he is born to life, with all that he has acquired during the preceding years.

The complexity of our development as human beings makes us need all the great experiences that childhood provides. The human being is born immature and has to finish maturing throughout his childhood, hence the helplessness and the need for protection that he requires during his childhood. Parents have to filter and protect it from excessive stimuli that can come from outside, just like the uterus does during pregnancy.

Why do you think that the development of the child’s brain depends on the love of the parents, on the security of the maternal bond?

It is probably surprising to learn that the most important element for growth is not physical, but non-organic in nature, such as affection. For this reason, communication between parents and children is vital for growth, in a sense as fundamental as food.

The baby does not grow only by the amount of milk it ingests or by the care it receives, although these are very effective. The child who is safe in a healthy affective environment, will be able to enhance all the capacities that he has genetically inherited.

Neural development is spectacular at this age, the innumerable neural links are activated or inhibited depending on the affective and physical experiences that the newborn has, thus determining the characteristics of the nervous tissue of the brain.

Only the security and protection that mainly the maternal bond offers, a healthy development of the brain is possible.

Currently neuroscience gives more and more evidence that affective processes intervene in the development of nervous tissue.


You also talk about the importance of not obsessing over looking for pregnancy and succeeding in the endeavor

The conception does not depend only on the aspirations to be a father, but basically on the unconscious longings, that is, on an unthinkable and therefore uncontrollable reality. The best thing is to trust our nature and endure waiting, if it occurs, knowing that pregnancy comes , especially when we stop chasing ourselves with the insecurities that are awakened precisely, with the desire to be parents.

When the pregnancy does not occur spontaneously and there is no physical cause to justify it, it may be time to seek professional help. Keep in mind that the desire to have a child can cover another unconscious desire that we know nothing about.

You give a lot of importance to non-biological children, for some reason?

Due to the current way of life, many women delay their motherhood without taking into account that the biological clock is relentless. This circumstance means that there are couples who resort to reproduction clinics, where many of the pregnancies are achieved by donating eggs or semen.

Here they could also be added to those who resort to adoptions. This reality forces us to rethink many of the new aspects that arise from it: non-biological children force parents to make an extra psychological effort.

You explain that some parents feel like a failure because they don’t have biological children. What can help you to accept this situation?

In reality, all parents at one time or another have to renounce the dream child and accept its true nature. In the case of parents with non-biological children, they have to give up the narcissistic idea that this child is not genetically similar to them. Something that for most will not pose any great obstacle, however, for some, this reality can become a complication important enough not to allow the necessary bond between them and the child to develop.

When this happens, you have to think about the existence of some internal conflict in the parents that is not resolved and that is being projected onto the child. In these cases, it is necessary to consult a specialist to help develop the grief that involves giving up that the child is not a genetic child.

Is it necessary to explain to the child that he is adopted or the result of assisted reproduction?

The silence or the secret of the origin of a child constitutes a difficulty in the constitution of this subjectivity. Each creature has the need and the right to be aware of its origin. Parents have to be able to renounce their narcissism, otherwise it will be difficult for the child to be included in a family environment that dismisses a part of himself from the start, as if that part of him did not exist. Later when the secret is revealed or even before, mistrust will break one’s identity.

It can be devastating to discover something about yourself that has been hidden from you. It is necessary to renounce narcissistically, on the part of the parents, that their child is not genetic and admit that it has an origin that does not come from them.

Pretending that there is nothing to say or know, makes them believe that it is something shameful, something that must be hidden.

The most important thing is that the parents accept within themselves that part of the child that does not belong to them. From this starting point, everything will be more bearable. Waiting for the moment when the son asks, like any genetic son or not, where children come from and how he got there. Perhaps it is not exactly that way. No matter how it is verbalized, the parents and the child will surely find a way to make it manifest. Information that parents know and accept from him.

Becoming parents also implies changes in the couple. How is that adaptation?

The change from being two to being three implies a restructuring in the relationship between the parents and in which the child has a place. This circumstance, for many couples, will become a conflict, since they will have to readjust and renounce many habits that were already consolidated between them.

The child comes to occupy a place that the parents have to build for him, within the psyche of each one of them. This requires resignation and a good dose of creativity, something that committed parents will not take too much trouble. After this period of adaptation, the child will become part of their lives. This period can be a critical period for some couples who cannot tolerate the requirements that parenting imposes.

What does it take to be a good mother? And a good father?

You don’t have to be especially smart, nor are smart women better mothers. To be a good mother, all you need is the dedication necessary for the instinct to activate. Good communication with the child is what will make him feel understood and safe, and this does not depend on a woman being more or less intelligent, but on her ability to identify with her baby.

Although the role of a mother is different from the role of the father, we could say that both need at least at the beginning, enough dedication to allow all the changes that parenting demands in the first weeks of life.

Perhaps the main attitude would be confidence , confidence that little by little, they will begin to understand the child, confidence in their own abilities and confidence that nature endows them with enough instinct to carry out the task. The other skills come in addition.

In your book you speak of “psychological pregnancy of the father”. Really exist?

In reality, it is not that there is a psychological pregnancy of the father, this would mean that the father believes he is really pregnant and that is not the case. But a transformation does take place in his brain, just as it does in the mother. Something that is necessary in both, so that they are sufficiently linked to the child at birth, and that guarantees a good upbringing. Without this transformation, which will last during the nine months of gestation, involvement would not be possible.

He too experiences sensations, ambivalences, and other perceptions. And it is even possible that he suffers more contradictions than the mother since he cannot calm himself with the physical relationship, which the mother does have with the fetus.

We could assure you that you are as pregnant as your partner, at least in terms of the mental changes you experience.

But even when the baby is born and it is not as we had imagined it, they will recognize it as their own. It does not matter that the child is not how they had imagined it, even if the child presents some alteration. Because precisely the pregnancy period has allowed enough psychic transformation to prepare parents for any eventuality of this type.

Of course, not all parents are the same, some of them may feel disappointed, for example, by the sex of their children, depending on the narcissistic nature or their unconscious conflicts. But it is not usual.

Parents will recognize their baby as a part of themselves and no matter how it arrives, because they have loved it for a long time before it was born.

Photos | iStock

In Babies and More | Real motherhood vs. Idealized motherhood, We are parents, but also a couple: how to keep love alive when we have children

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