Thursday, November 3, 2011

Maternal separation stresses infants at birth

Imagine resting peacefully in a soft, warm place.  Stay in this place for around 10 lunar months.  Now imagine being forcefully pushed from this place into cold, rough hands, flipped upside down, had a hard rubber syringe jammed down your throat, cut from your oxygen source, passed into unknown hands, roughly tumbled around and wiped with coarse towels, poked with a needle, goop slammed into your sensitive eyes that have never before been touched and wrapped up tightly in a chemical bleached blanket before finally being handed to your mother.  You have now been through the first 10 minutes of a newborn babys life. Would you be stressed out?  I would.  Would you want to eat?  I wouldn't.

Can you imagine being in the same peaceful place and then instead of the former, being placed into your mothers warm waiting hands and onto her soft warm skin.  Nobody touches you except the person that has been growing you for the past almost-year.  You'd be a much happier baby indeed.

But I digress.... this information, which us mothers already knew, is now published through a study.  This seems to make more people pay attention.  I'm not sure why we need validation for a natural instinct but hey, who am I to judge whether your hindbrain is fully developed or not.

Maternal separation stresses infants by Science Daily

"ScienceDaily (Nov. 2, 2011) — A woman goes into labor, and gives birth. The newborn is swaddled and placed to sleep in a nearby bassinet, or taken to the hospital nursery so that the mother can rest. Despite this common practice, new research published in Biological Psychiatry provides new evidence that separating infants from their mothers is stressful to the baby.

It is standard practice in a hospital setting, particularly among Western cultures, to separate mothers and their newborns. Separation is also common for babies under medical distress or premature babies, who may be placed in an incubator. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends against co-sleeping with an infant, due to its association with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
Humans are the only mammals who practice such maternal-neonate separation, but its physiological impact on the baby has been unknown until now. Researchers measured heart rate variability in 2-day-old sleeping babies for one hour each during skin-to-skin contact with mother and alone in a cot next to mother's bed. Neonatal autonomic activity was 176% higher and quiet sleep 86% lower during maternal separation compared to skin-to-skin contact.
Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry, commented on the study's findings: "This paper highlights the profound impact of maternal separation on the infant. We knew that this was stressful, but the current study suggests that this is major physiologic stressor for the infant."
This research addresses a strange contradiction: In animal research, separation from mother is a common way of creating stress in order to study its damaging effects on the developing newborn brain. At the same time, separation of human newborns is common practice, particularly when specialized medical care is required (e.g. incubator care). "Skin-to-skin contact with mother removes this contradiction, and our results are a first step towards understanding exactly why babies do better when nursed in skin-to-skin contact with mother, compared to incubator care," explained study author Dr. Barak Morgan.
More research is necessary to further understand the newborn response to separation, including whether it is sustained response and whether it has any long-term neurodevelopmental effects.
However, skin-to-skin contact has known benefits, and certainly, most would agree that unnecessarily stressing a newborn is unacceptable. Thus, as further evidence emerges, the challenge to doctors will be to incorporate skin-to-skin contact into routine treatment whilst still safely providing the other elements of newborn medical care."

Oh, and if I may, I get a good kick out of the part where they say 'the challenge to doctors...'  Who the hell died and made your doctor king?  HE works for YOU! So here it goes... I'm calling all you moms out.  The challenge is to YOU! Stand up for yourself and your baby and make sure that your hands are the first and only to touch your baby.  They can do all the 'checking' that they need from the safety of your chest.  You're the boss and you have the right to say it's my way or the highway.  (insert sassy finger snap) Your baby will thank you with a beautiful latch and maybe a nice big poop.  Hey, it's the thought that counts right?


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