By Leslie Lindsay
Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (Sep 21, 1999)
Are you my mother?! Ever wonder how kids instinctively know who their mother is? Or do they? You likely know this concept as bonding/attachment/imprinting. And according to Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s book, Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, this time period immediately post-partum (after the birth) is considered a “critical period.”
Think back to the time when you were born. Did your father attend your birth? Was the room warm and dim, classical music playing? Was the room even referred to as a “birthing suite,” (or was it seperate, almost like an OR)? Did your tiny infant self sleep next to your mother, nestled in a clear rolling “cart,” with newborn diapers and other baby accuroments nearby? Likely not.
In “those” days it was more likely you were born in a sterile “delivery” room with bright lights, loud noises, and nurses and doctors attending to your first view of the world. Nurses congregated outside of the mother’s rooms (instead of rolling their lap-top computers into the recovery/birthing room). It was also likely that your mother had to rely on the baby visiting hours–those times in which you were “allowed” contact with your mother and she with you. Most families milled around the nursery, gazing into the plexiglass pointing and ooohhing and ahhhing about the darling little baby–or asking, “Which one is it?!”
It wasn’t until the 1950’s in which there was huge outbreak of nursery-related diarrhea that got the medical folks re-thinking this idea of keeping all infants in tight-sealed nursery. The seed was planted, but it wasn’t till 22 years later (1972) in which an article appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine suggesting a “critical period” of in the minutes and hours just after birth when mother’s imprint on their infants.
At the extreme end of this movement, mothers were often instructed to bond with their babies for set about of time in a post-partum flesh-against-flesh bonding intimacy right after birth. Yes, this was charted. In fact, some hospitals in the 1990’s kept flowcharts rating mothers on whether they and their babies were “bonded” or “not bonded.”
Bonding is the modern version of the old etholohical process of imprinting, which comes from the German word Praegung. (This derives from the idea of a coin, which can be easily shaped for a brief molten interlude, after which a metal becomes unstampable). This is often done in the wild in which mothers lick and care for their young imprinting them with their scent.
The time spent with baby right after birth probably does increase a mother’s desire to be with her infant–recognizing her baby, his scent, and the intiation of lactation/breastfeeding. Doing so alters the mother’s psychological state and several days after birth, there is a great new relationship between her baby and herself. This is why a mother who is at risk of abandoning or distancing herself from her infant often greatly reduces the liklihood of that occuring. Yet, when mom is not at risk for abandoning her baby, this rooming-in idea and skin-to-skin contact the concept becomes more of a nice idea and not a “biological need.”
Hummm….what are your thoughts? Was rooming-in helpful to you and your child’s attachment process?
- Do you agree with this being a “biological need?”
- What about mother/baby nurses out there–is this bonding (or lack of) still charted today?
- Are you any less attached to your own mother if you were born in the “old days” when this practice wasn’t so mainstream?