Mother, the Center of Baby's Universe
In the birth room, as new life emerges, where else would a baby want to go but into the loving arms of mother? Those of us present know that we are witnessing a grand design play out before our eyes. The world receives a new being, a miracle unlike any other. As the midwife, it is a priority to set the mood for welcoming this child. I am waiting for the moment when the mother looks down and finds her newborn for the first time, when we arrive here, I can exhale. There is a mix of emotion in the room, but the sense of relief and accomplishment is palpable. In the best scenarios, the family invites this new baby in with love. As a former social worker, my hope is that helping families bond and connect in the earliest weeks of life will send them off on a trajectory of healthy interactions and nurturing parenting.
Do these earliest moments of life matter?
Is there a way to foster bonding and a greater sense of confidence in new mothers?
Years of experience has shown me YES.
According to the latest research the bond between a mother and a child is strengthened with the use of skin-to-skin care soon after the birth and intermittently in the earliest weeks of life. Nowadays, many health professionals are teaching expected and new mothers how to perform skin-to skin contact or kangaroo care. For most newborns, skin-to-skin should occur immediately after the birth, by placing the infant directly on mom’s chest in an upright position, belly to belly, with the head facing one side or the other. Keeping your child close in this way allows the baby to activate innate skills to perform the breast crawl. See an example in this short clip: https://youtu.be/qbaJDjRYNbY
We know from nature that other mammals who are interrupted during the earliest hours of birth may have difficulty with feeding or transitioning. It stands to reason that it is biologically normal for baby and mom to be together, and to have minimal disruption following birth for the best outcomes. The research validates this as we know that skin-to-skin results in physical, emotional and even spiritual benefits for mom and baby. Babies experience: improved heart rate, cardio-respiratory stability, better gas exchange, increased breath volume, activation of infant speech motor areas, decreased metabolic stress, better blood glucose level in the first 90 mins post birth, and decreased pain perception. Mothers have less postpartum bleeding, increased levels of oxytocin (the love hormone), and even less risk of postpartum depression.
Experts agree, skin-to-skin should be the standard of care for all babies in all birth settings. To Mamas everywhere, hold onto your babies!