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Left holding the baby

ср, 03/28/2018 - 13:37 Марина

Scientists recently revealed on instinct in women intact and unaffected by the age of technology. Glancing through glossy art books Lee Salks (Scientific American, May 1973) noticed that four times out of five Mary is holding the infant Jesus against her left breast. The Madonna sparked off a series of experiments and observations to determine on which side women hold their babies and why.

First he determined that modern mothers still tend to hold their baby on the left. Of 255 right – handed mothers, 83% held the baby on the left. And out of 32 left-handed women, 78% held the baby on the left. As a control, women were watched emerging from supermarkets carrying baby-sized packages; the bundles were held with no side preference.

Then, dental patients were given a large rubber ball to hold during treatment. The majority clutched the ball to their left side, even when it interfered with the dentist’s activities. This  suggested that in time of stress objects are held against the left side.

At that point an apparently contradictory phenomenon was observed. A large number of mothers who brought their premature babies to a follow – up clinic were seen to hold their babies against their right side.

So, 115 mothers who had been separated from their babies for 24 hours after birth were observed for holding response. The experimenters presented the baby directly to the midline of the mother’s body, and noted how she held the baby. 53% placed the baby on the left and 47% on the right. And it was also noted that mothers of the group who had held their baby on the left had already had a baby from which they had not been separated after birth.

The author suggests that “the time immediately after birth is a critical period when the stimulus of holding the baby releases a certain material response”. That is to say she senses the baby better off on her left.

Left-handed holding enables the baby to hear the heartbeat – a sound associated with the security of the womb. In order to discover whether hearing the heart has a beneficial effect on the baby, the sound of a human heartbeat was played to 102 babies in a New York nursery for 4 days. A control group of babies was not exposed to heartbeats. The babies in the beat-group gained markedly more weight and cried far less than the babies in the control group.


Task 1. Choose the correct variant ending of the sentence:


  1. Looking at art books inspired Lee Salk to investigate…
    1. pictures of Mary and Jesus.
    2. the way mothers hold their babies.
    3. the way people hold objects in times of stress.
    4. the effect of the human heartbeat on premature babies.
  2. Lee Salk found that …
    1. left –handed women tend to hold their babies on the right.
    2. only right-handed women tend to hold their babies on the left.
    3. more right-handed women than left – handed women tend to hold their babies on the left.
    4. women who hold their babies on the left are nearly all right-handed.
  3. In one experiment 102 babies spent four days …
    1. separated from their mothers.
    2. in a control group.
    3. exposed to the sound of heartbeats.
    4. losing their weight.
  4. Salk’s experiments proved that mothers …
    1. have an instinct to hold their babies on the left immediately after birth.
    2. hold their babies on the left at the times of stress.
    3. of premature babies have instinct to hold their babies on the left.
    4. find it more comfortable to carry their babies on the left because the heart is on that side.


Task 2. Choose the best meaning of the word/expression according to the context


  1. The word “this” (in bold) refers to …
    1. a large rubber ball.
    2. the majority.
    3. the fact that the ball interfered with the dentist’s activity.
    4. the fact that the patients held the ball on the left.
  2. What was the “apparently contradictory phenomenon”?
    1. Mothers of premature babies were seen to hold their children both on the right and on the left.
    2. Mothers of premature babies held their babies on the correct side.
    3. Mothers of premature babies took their babies to a follow-up clinic.
    4. The behaviour of  mothers of premature babies disproved Lee Salk’s theory.
  3. Mothers were observed “for holding response”. This means: Mothers were observed …
    1. to see how they answered experimenters’ questions.
    2. to see how they held their babies.
    3. to see how they spoke to their babies.
    4. to test their reaction to separation from their babies.
  4. The time after birth is important: this is when …
    1. babies must not be separated from their mothers.
    2. the baby’s response to the mother is released.
    3. the mother has an instinctive tendency to hold the baby on the left.
    4. the baby can hear the mother’s heartbeat.


Task 3. Answer the questions, give details


  1. Why did Lee Salk watch women coming out of supermarkets?
  2. Why were dental patients given a rubber ball to hold?


Task 4. Do you believe that motherly instinct is the strongest for a woman? Write a short summary about it. Use reasons and details to support your opinion.

Answers: task 1 – b, c, c, a; task 2 – d, a, b, d.


#health, #birth, #mother, #baby, #experiment, #research