The Creepy Phrase, “I Want To Gobble You Up” Is Totally Normal, Says Science


“Can I eat you up please?” I ask my twelve-year old son, who does not react. He does not even look at me blankly. He carries on with whatever he is doing, pretending that he never heard me.


When he was younger, I had managed to startle him when I first said these words. But as he grew older, I said it so often that he happily ignored me.

Presently, it is treated as one of those commands like “get off your phone”, “switch off the T.V.” or “pick up your socks from the floor.” Earlier, I worried that he might conclude that his Mom is a cannibal. Thankfully, that never happened.

Despite my continual threats to eat him up, he continues to trust me without ever displaying being threatened.

In his babyhood days, this urge of mine would be so strong that I would actually squeeze him tight or just nibble his toe or cheek. There were innumerable moments where he looked so super cute that I caught myself saying that I would gobble him up.

Of course, we all understand that was not what I meant.

Yet, I found deep satisfaction in just saying the words and crushing him like he was a big ball of cotton candy. After this completely uncontrollable act, I would push myself into a well of guilt thinking what a weird and sick mom I am. Clearly, I am anything but normal.


As far as I remember I have been saying these gory words to him ever since he was born, even before he could understand what I said. Strangely I never wondered why I loved saying this to him all the time. Until recently, I googled it.

I found a scientific explanation on Buzzfeed which said that the smell of a new born baby triggers a surge of dopamine for new moms.

It’s similar to the reward response that comes with satisfying a craving for food, the study researchers found. Apparently, this phenomenon has a name and a sociological purpose.

The website said that this was commonly known as cute aggression, “Dimorphous expressions” and can be helpful in controlling our emotions, according to the findings by psychological scientists at Yale University.

“Thank goodness” I told myself, “Congratulations on normalcy!”

My doubts were completely put to rest when I found my friend, cousin and sister say the exact same words to their kids and get the exact same reactions, too.

My eyes sparkled when I heard them say these words and my son and I exchanged knowing glances. My self-doubt had turned into a feeling of pride. “Look, all moms do this,” my eyes said to my son. “Whatever mom!” said his expression.

I don’t know if I will ever stop saying these words to my son.

They are more important than a regular I love you that I say every night before he goes to bed, or I am so proud of you on his achievements or Bravo when he does something outstanding.

Probably, the same holds true for him too. He hears it so often that it leaves him with no choice but to anticipate it, often more than once in the day.

But the emotions that transcend into our world every time I say it are precious and beyond defining. There is a sense of comfort and security that surrounds us, as soon as these words roll out of my tongue.

Despite the tug of war with the tsunami of hormones for my tween, these beast-like words manage to lighten our stressful moments. As insane as it sounds, I am convinced that it is one of the invaluable ingredients that strengthens our bond.

Have you heard the phrase come out of your mouth, "I want to gobble you up!?" when talking to your baby? Turns out. It's totally normal. #science #filterfreeparents

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Surabhi Kaushik is an Indian writer, based in Charlotte North Carolina. Her work has been published in several portals such as, www.writer’,, and She is part of various writing groups and is closely associated with “Write Like You Mean It”, a writer’s group in Main library, Charlotte. She also leads a monthly Fiction Writing workshop and conducts writing workshops at various libraries across Charlotte, North Carolina.


  1. Dear Surabhi Kaushik,

    I enjoyed reading your article and am glad to hear that it is normal to use some creepy words like “gobble”! I also often used it to my children when they were young. Thanks for making all moms feel normal through your article. Keep up the good work! My best wishes.

  2. this gobble up threat os nothing new. I thought i belonged to another planet when i used to say that. Very well written and so co relatable

  3. It is very well written and very true. All mother’s would have definitely told /felt like gobbling up their babes at sometime or other.

  4. a wonderful reading experience where the pristine and subtle feelings that are being expressed do not get crushed under the weight of'” ten dollar words” . motherhood as an experience has so many hidden joys and fears, this essay tries to make us understand it in a scientific way , congratulations for this successful and creative attempt

  5. I never stopped to think I was crazy because I felt my baby was just too yummy to resist! So reading this article just reassured me that I wasn’t doing any permanent damage unknowingly. Thank you ????.

  6. I didn’t know there was a scientific explanation to the feeling. Loved reading your article. The idea was quite novel and beautifully articulated. Keep up the good work Surabhi!!

  7. Loved reading your article. Congrats once again . A big thanks to make all mothers feel normal the way we endear to our children.

  8. Dear Surabhi,
    You always manage to AMAZE me
    Your choice of topics your simplicity, the Wonderful Explanation,your choice of words n the beautiful flow of language enthralled me once again!!!
    May we continue to look forward to such more lively writings.
    U give us all a Wonderful Feeling Of Being A Mother!!!
    God Bless You!!!

  9. Hi Surabhi
    I loved reading your article and believe me I was smiling throughout. It’s so true. Even I say these insane words to younger one now( elder one is a teenager). And my little one grins and says,”Mom you are not a monster!!!”
    Fantastic article Surabhi.
    Hope you still remember me.

  10. Hi Surabhi, some of the simple words that we use in our daily life, we take it for granted, at least, I never thought about this phrase…but you have written it so well that it made me smile and feel proud to be a mother who used these words….it made me feel very good….

  11. That’s such a fascinating fact about the smell of a baby triggering dopamine similar to the food craving response! I’d never heard that before. Nice article.

  12. Surabhi,

    A wonderful reflection on the upside of “devouring mother” syndrome! In my enthusiasm for munching the infant toes of my oldest daughter, I once bit down a little too hard. Really glad to know this compulsion has a purpose.

    Keep up the beautiful writing–

  13. Beautifully written! Now I can rest easy about my “gory” tendencies as a mom! Amazing that you found research to support this ????
    Well done Surabhi!

  14. A remarkable and extremely well written essay. Seldom have I seen the subject treated with such aplomb and genuinely interesting. This is one fantastic piece of writing and a great conveyance of love. Proud of u Surabhi

  15. Great article! So glad to know I’m not as weird as I suspected, though my teenagers will strongly disagree with that assessment. Someday they will understand it all and then I’ll be thrilled to eat some grand baby toes too! ????


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