A Mother’s Touch

It’s no surprise that mothers don’t like being separated from their newborn babies, which is one reason the practice is on the decline. There are 125 hospitals and birthing centers designated baby-friendly in the United States, and that number is growing.

In fact, the World Health Organization is spearheading an effort to help hospitals continually improve neonatal care and foster mother-child bonding. The goals are to reduce infant mortality and death by childbirth and to foster conditions to maximize the baby’s potential to grow up healthy and reach adulthood. Among the WHO recommendations is not to separate newborn babies and their mothers.

Now new research suggests another benefit. The separation doesn’t just interfere with bonding overall, it causes the baby additional stress and trauma in the short term. In the study, infants slept 86% worse when denied maternal skin-to-skin contact, and were almost twice as distressed, as measured by nervous system activity. Researchers noted that in animal studies, one of the most common ways to induce stress in newborns is to separate them from their mothers, and thus it’s not surprising that the same effect is observed in human babies.

Maternal contact has known positive benefits as well. Nurtured babies develop faster and, their vital signs are more stable, and they are found to be generally happier than babies who are taken from their mothers’ arms right after birth.

Charles Lieberman, MedexSupply blogger

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