Mother and Newborn’s Connection and Experience of Birth

How does the current maternity system support or not support bonding and attachment?

The current maternity system does not support bonding and attachment by intervening unnecessarily and interrupting crucial bonding and attachment periods early after delivery. The maternity system does not support the fact that babies are sentient beings and are capable of feeling and having an awareness of self and others. The maternity system encourages the use of medical interventions such as anesthesia and elected c-sections, which reduces the ability to have skin-to-skin contact and early successful breastfeeding, which has been shown to improve attachment. The maternity system places greater emphasis on maternal care than on fetal and infant care. Many hospitals promote the use of formula and encourage mothers to leave their infants in incubators the nursery instead of in the rooms receiving skin-to-skin contact.

The maternity system does support bonding and attachment by providing midwives and sometimes labor support persons (doulas) to help with the delivery and postpartum period. Lactation consultants are often available for mothers who wish to breastfeed but are having difficulties. The maternity system is beginning to see, once again, the benefits of breastfeeding and are establishing rules and regulations for the use of formula and many other standard medical practices. Practices such as delayed cutting of the cord and early skin-to-skin contact are becoming introduced slowly in some hospitals.

How does the mother’s experience of birth affect her connection with her newborn?

How the mother experiences her birth greatly affects her connection with her newborn. If she feels unsafe, angry, or annoyed while delivering, her experience of her birth will not be what she had dreamed it would be like. Her expectation of how the event might have gone, can cause her to feel upset which can be transfer to her connection with her baby. The people that support her and those that are there for the delivery are all a part of her experience, which can affect her connection with her infant. If she feels traumatized in any way, this could cause her to want to reject the newborn and internalize to protect herself. The mother might have an image of what her baby looks like and an expectation of instant feelings of love when she finally meets him or her. This can affect the way that she is able to connect with reality when the fantasy of her baby becomes what is actually her “real” baby.

If the mother has a good experience during her birth and has adequate support, she will be much more relaxed into her new role of motherhood. She will be able to feel safe enough to go through the labor process and will be able to hold and touch her baby at birth, uninterrupted. Her ability to connect with the baby during pregnancy greatly influences her ability to connect at delivery. If left to be alone with her baby after delivery, the mother will be able to spend quality time with her baby, begin to establish good eye contact, and begin to breastfeed which is helps create a secure bond.

How does the newborn’s experience of birth affect his/her attachment to the caregiver?

The newborn’s experience of birth is very traumatic. The most important wish for the newborn is to be touched and to feel safe again. The attachment to the caregiver, I believe, begins even before birth, when the fetus is in a secure environment in the womb. The birth is a transition from uterine life to the world, which is very painful for the infant and mother. If non-medicated and placed naked into the mothers chest, the baby will instinctively know how to successfully breastfeed which is one of the greatest forms of attachment the baby could begin with. If even temporarily separation takes place, the infant will begin to display hyper-arousal and dissociative qualities. The need for contact is imperative. The newborns ability to attach to his or her parents depends on the parent’s ability to be attuned to the needs of the infant, provide a secure and nurturing environment, and maintain a physical connection. This all helps the baby mange the trauma of its birth and then is free to begin attaching to his or her caregiver.

© Drew Starr, 2011

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