I've always instinctually reacted to a sleeping baby with an immediate "Ooooohhh, how sweet!" complete with the face every mama makes when she sees the adorable sight- upturned eyebrows, soft eyes, rounded mouth. It may be learned behavior, I suppose, since every woman I've known does this to some extent when she sees a sleeping babe. But recently, I've wondered if there's more to it.
I have to think that there's some kind of female hormonal response to seeing a sleeping baby. If seeing our babies smile releases hormones within us designed to make us want to keep our baby smiling, then it makes sense that a similar response could occur when we see our babies sleeping. Without such a hormonal response, a sleeping baby would just be boring, like watching paint peel. But with those lovely hormones, it's a sight at which I could stare for hours.
I've realized recently that most men just don't have the same response to sleeping babies, which supports my theory of a hormonal response. Tyler, who adores Tye and is positively smitten by her, has actually said before, "I know this sounds bad, but I think she's cuter when she's awake." To which I responded, "What?!?" And that's not because I think she's less cute when she's awake- but just because think the sight of any child asleep is beautiful. Even teaching preschool, my sleeping students filled me with a sense of peace and love- and that cooing "Ooooohhh" response.
I think our desire to watch babies sleep is likely related to our primal caretaking skills, linked to our survival as a species. A sleeping baby is fed, warm, satisfied, and quietly safe from predators, which should bring about a sense of calm and contentment in the mother who has provided for the child. A nice hormonal reward will keep us wanting to find ourselves in the same situation again and again. It makes so much sense to me.
It also explains why Tyler, with less of an appreciation for a sleeping baby, wants to wake Tye up to play every time he comes home mid-nap. He just doesn't receive the same sense of satisfaction from seeing his daughter sound asleep. Poor guy doesn't know what he's missing.