At a birth recently a mother was being separated from her newborn, and not for any real good reason, she was totally distraught and expressed her distress. She was told:
“It is only for two days, then you will have her with you for the rest of your life.”
It is not the first time that I have heard this. This kind of comment shows no respect or regard for this mother’s feelings, and is lacking compassion. But far worse, it is lacking a basic understanding of reproductive neuroscience, or translated into everyday language, the basic and essential biology of being born. IT MATTERS HOW WE ARE BORN.
The First 1000 Minutes of life are fundamental. Protecting these is why we at NINO Academy promote Zero Separation.
Separation during the first 1000 minutes puts the baby and mother at risk.
First: Separation at birth always delays the baby’s ability to adapt to its new life in air, and may even make permanent harmful changes. Mother’s body warmth and smell activates the parasympathetic system (its physical health), so that breathing and circulation works best, and so that breastfeeding can start, and – after a while – good quality sleep.
Second: separation impacts the baby’s brain and mind: the essential first pathway being fired at birth connects the baby’s emotional brain to its social brain, and leads to the capacity to TRUST. We call this bonding, and it is based on sensory inputs (smell, warmth, sound) from mother that makes the baby feel SAFE and protected. Separation disrupts early bonding, the child learns early on that no other human being will really care for him.
Third: separation impacts the mother’s mind! High levels of oxytocin define the healthy birth process, in the baby oxytocin is contributing to the above physical and emotiona grounding. But oxytocin is even higher in the mother after a vaginal birth, and fundamentally changes her limbic brain. There is a narrow window of only one day when such changes can take place. I could make a lot of complicated neuroscience to back this up: but for simplicity, here is the “life sciences theory” explanation. The limbic brain (includes the emotional brain and the reproductive program) requires signals that the baby must make, and this triggers (elicits) brain responses that make milk flow and more oxytocin flow for more love, and as this interaction goes backward and forwards between mum and baby, bonding takes place, bonding is two way.
But, if there is separation, the limbic brain gets no such messages, and then those reproductive brain changes do not take place. The limbic brain basically gets the message that the baby must have died, as no mammal baby ever survived two days without its mother. When the mother then gets her baby after two days, the limbic brain is no longer helping her be a mother, in a relaxed and naturally easy way. Mother’s conscious and cortical brain knows that this her baby, but she has lost the opportunity for bonding and sensitisation. Many, many women feel this loss keenly, even in old age. Two days of separation is a severe adversity to mother and baby.
IT MATTERS HOW WE ARE BORN. It really does!