If it weren’t for the hospital setting, mothers that have just given birth would be able to hold and coddle their baby for as long as they wanted after labor. Of course, there are benefits to the hospital setting, as nurses can take the baby to clean it and give it a high dose of vitamins. In the past, nurses would take the baby from the mother right away so that the mother didn’t have to hold it before it was clean. This routine was stopped as studies began to show that women were not bonding with their babies as well if they couldn’t hold them right after birth. It’s a good thing this practice was discontinued, because recent studies show that those first minutes of mother-baby skin contact are crucial to a lifetime of bonding.

Evolutionarily, it makes sense that bonding happens right after the baby is born. In a tribal setting, mothers and babies needed to know instinctively which people were their family members without the help of hospital bracelets or DNA tests. This bonding instinct still holds true, and it actually affects how the mother and baby interact for at least a year after birth. When babies had skin-to-skin contact with their mothers for at least 25-minutes after they were born, they still had a stronger bond a year later than mothers who did not have such contact. It’s also important to note that these babies were not fully wrapped up in blankets, but were physically touching the skin of their mothers.

Mothers who had direct skin contact with their babies immediately after giving birth were more likely to rush to their baby’s side if he or she were crying. They were also more to wake from of a deep sleep if their baby started fussing or crying. This study tested that bond a year after childbirth, but it would be interesting to explore whether or not this bond would last a lifetime, and how it would affect the relationship between mother and offspring later in life.

If you’ll be giving birth soon, make sure you insist that you hold your baby immediately. While it’s common practice now, some nurses might be hasty and try to get the job done as quickly as possible. It’s your choice though, so try holding your baby for as long as possible, which won’t be difficult when you realize how happy you are.

Source: Ksenia Bystrova et al: Early Contact versus Separation: Effects on Mother–Infant Interaction One Year Later. Birth Volume 36 Issue 2 pp. 97-109 June 2009

Keyword Tags: