Bonding

Our immediate attachment to or feelings towards our babies in the first hours/days/weeks after birth may vary tremendously; it varies from woman to woman, from parent to parent, or even from one childbirth to the next.  Factors such as the birth environment, hormones, age, the ease or difficulty of the labour, exhaustion and both our personalities and those of our babies have a marked effect on bonding.  Some parents may take longer to feel love and attachment for their babies.  And that’s OK.  Child abuse aside, there is no right or wrong way to do this bonding business.

If you love your baby  it’s easier though.  And there are methods for causing bonding to occur more readily.  Usually  mothers have already experienced significant bonding with their baby before labour even begins.

A quiet birth environment helps.  Time spent alone with the infant (and your partner) in the immediate post-partum period helps. A darkened delivery room makes it easier for the baby to open its eyes, which helps form attachments.The baby is usually intensely alert in the first hour after birth, especially if no drugs have been taken during labour, as these can make the infant very drowsy. Presumably the alert phase is caused by hormones such as adrenaline and high levels of endorphins, which have helped the baby be born, however it’s probably also because being born is such a dramatic thing for a baby. Not only are they alert, they also focus readily on their care giver, and show a marked preference for being held by their mothers, no doubt because she is familiar to the senses, especially those of smell and sound. And when held by their mothers they often visibly relax and mould to her body or start rooting for a feed

The immediate post-partum period is usually a time when, although often exhausted, the mother is psychologically and spiritually at her most open.  Newborns have not yet developed emotional barriers so there is a potential for deep interaction to occur between them.

Uninterrupted contact with the mother or her partner, helps. In a natural birth setting, an infant would not be separated from its mother in the early post-partum period. Skin to skin contact, rooming in, and breast-feeding can help to foster bonding if there has been early mother/ infant separation.

Early bonding helps with breastfeeding.  Early breastfeeding helps with bonding. A supportive birth environment helps with both. It’s your right to insist on it. Early suckling may also enhance later breastfeeding success, which in turn enhances attachment. 

Psychologists have defined a sequence in the bonding process from tentative exploration of the baby’s body to gathering the baby up and talking to him/her in high pitched tones. However you’ll do it naturally, without having to be told which one is supposed to come first.  If you are emotionally available, sensitive in your response to your baby’s behaviour, provide appropriate stimulation and are consistent in your treatment of your baby, they’re more than likely to give you all the feedback you need to fall in love with them for life.

Dr Nils Bergman Research on maternal-neonate separation :

Nils Bergman presented an extremely interesting and valuable paper on research around the neurobiology of attachment, maternal-neonate separation, and his most recent publication with Barak Morgan and Alan Horn in ‘Biological Psychiatry’ entitled “Should Neonates Sleep Alone?” Find the PDF HERE

“To investigate the impact of MNS in humans, we measured HRV in 16 2-day-old full-term neonates sleeping in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers and sleeping alone, for 1 hour in each place, before discharge from hospital. Infant behaviour was observed continuously and manually recorded according to a validated scale. Cardiac interbeat intervals and continuous electrocardiogram were recorded using two independent devices. Heart rate variability (taken only from sleep states to control for level of arousal) was analysed in the frequency domain using a wavelet method.”

Results show a 176% increase in autonomic activity and an 86% decrease in quiet sleep duration during MNS compared with skin-to-skin contact.

The conclusion from this research is that maternal-neonate separation is associated with a dramatic increase in HRV power, possibly indicative of central anxious autonomic arousal. Maternal-neonate separation also had a profoundly negative impact on quiet sleep duration. “Maternal separation may be a stressor the human neonate is not well-evolved to cope with and may not be benign.” 

Film: The Milky Way a breastfeeding documentary that includes information on the importance of bonding . Find it HERE

Document: Talking to your Unborn Baby. Download HERE

Also see Skin-to-skin (link)

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