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Birth & Bonding

Posted Sep 30 2008 1:04pm

The immediate postpartum experience for mother and baby shapes how the two will communicate and respond to each other. Midwives have known for thousands of years that a successful birth includes the mother and baby bonding, breastfeeding, and falling deeply in love. Women who experience unmedicated births are given nature's gift of a peak high of love hormones including oxytocin, beta-endorphin, and prolactin at the moment of birth. This lifetime peak of love hormones facilitates the mother's ability to immediately forget the pain of labor, to hold and touch the baby, and to fall deeply in love with every little bit of their baby.

New moms after unmedicated vaginal births are able to provide skin-to-skin contact to their babies, and initiate breastfeeding soon after birth. Women who experience pharmacological pain medications or other labor medications are known to produce less of the natural labor cocktail of love hormones, and the baby also does not receive these love and natural pain relieving hormones either. Babies from medicated labors need higher rates of support with respiration and stimulation after labor, and as well may have harder times learning to breastfeed.

A new research study published in the The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry demonstrates that mothers who have natural deliveries are more responsive to their babies. Natural births enhance mother and baby bonding, enhancing breastfeeding, communication, and happiness. This study has shown that mothers after natural births are more responsive to their babies cries. Science is now proving the ancient birthing wisdom that many midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, and mothers have known in their hearts.

It has been shown in previous studies that women with epidurals and cesareans have a harder time successfully breastfeeding, for various reasons. After a cesearean, the baby and mother may not be able to be together immediately after the birth - there is a longer separation, more likely need for for tubes down babies throat to assist with clearing the lungs, and less skin-to-skin contact. Women with epidurals or IV's have more fluid in their interstitial tissues and babies can have a harder time latching on to breasts that are filled with fluid creating "puffy" nipples.

This is more reason to acknowledge that female bodies are designed to birth the way nature intended for good reason for survival of the species, as well as body, heart, and soul health. I am so grateful to live today, in a world when we have the technology for medical intervention in labor when necessitated, but wish that epidurals, cesareans, and other facilitated forms of childbirth were only used when medically called for.

In countries such as Holland, where midwives care for all healthy women, and only women who risk-out of midwifery care can go to the hospital, they have considerably higher rates of natural birth, and dramatically lower rates of maternal or infant mortality. I hope that the US will look to these studies to improve our failing maternity care system. 

Artwork by: R. L. Cairns

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