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Study Shows: Seperation from Mother Stresses Newborn Babies — an article on the Smart Living Network
November 1, 2011 at 8:00 AMComments: 9 Faves: 0

Study Shows: Seperation from Mother Stresses Newborn Babies


When a new baby is born it is common practice, especially in western cultures, for the doctor or nurse to swaddle them in a blanket and place them in a bassinet as soon as the cord is cut. "Mother needs her rest!" they say and off they go to that surreal display of babies behind a glass window, arranged in rows, side by side in their identical clear plastic bassinets.

Most of never even consider that there is another option - but is this REALLY the best thing for the baby?

The results of a new study suggest it's not. In fact, when you really start to think about the practice, it's difficult to understand why it ever began in the first place.

For one, we are the only mammals that separate mothers and infants. For another, infant/mother separation is a common laboratory practice to induce stress in animals being studied for stress's harmful effect! Scientists know full well that it is harmful in animals - but what about us humans in particular?

For one hour two groups of two day old infants were monitored. The first group had direct skin-to-skin contact with their mother. The second group were laying alone in their bassinet. Compared with those infants that had their mother, the infants laying alone had autonomic activity (controlling their heart rate and respiration rate among other things) that was 176% higher and had 86% less quiet sleep.

"This paper highlights the profound impact of maternal separation on the infant. We knew that this was stressful, but the current study suggests that this is major physiologic stressor for the infant."says editor of Biological Psychiatry, Dr. John Krystal.

While more research is necessary to determine what long-term effects very early mother/infant separation might cause, the benefits of skin-to-skin contact is already well known.

Said study author, Dr. Barak Morgan, "Skin-to-skin contact with mother removes this contradiction, and our results are a first step towards understanding exactly why babies do better when nursed in skin-to-skin contact with mother, compared to incubator care,"


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  • It's so weird, but I never thought about the fact that we are the only mammals that actually separate our newborn infants from their mothers! When it comes pregnancy and birth, I guess people are so anxious to do things right, they don't question their doctors. Still, it amazes me that it's taken this long for someone to finally investigate what impact this might have.

  • ...and doesn't that picture just break your heart?! :(

  • Wow! I never thought of that either, but the results are certainly striking. I wonder if this study could cause a change - or are we too stuck in our ways? :/

    And yes, that photo is so sad! :(

  • Oh my goodness, agreed, that picture is incredibly sad. I feel like it's extremely common for this to just happen because they want to weigh the baby, do some tests and then put the baby in a blanket and possibly put them into a bassinet. especially with premature babies because they want to REALLY monitor their health. But wouldn't it be nice to just let us hold them at first? Even if they haven't been cleaned, measured, and weighed? I feel like even just a quick second of mother to baby touch would really make a difference. Touch in general is very powerful and it starts as soon as we are born!

  • I have four kids and other than my premature twins I was able to hold my babies instantly. They actually only took them for just enough time to weigh then clean and diaper them. Then I was holding them and nursing them . I think that alot of that has to do with the people in the room at the time, including the staff. I have found some Drs and nurses are better than others when it comes to your newborn and you for that matter.

  • I should add though stress to the baby doesn't surprise me though, its stressful on the mom too...

  • This is a topic I am quite passionate about. The separation not only creates stress, but it can hamper the chances for successful breastfeeding as well. Have you heard of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative? It is helping to prevent this practice from ever happening in the first place...

  • I love this post!

    So, my wife and I had our first child in the hospital, and the birth plan was... the baby is NEVER away from us. Not because we're worried about weird things they might do, but because of the stress they experience without their parents. We watched friends of ours have their baby whisked away and saw the stress on both the parents and the baby in the observation room.

    It's amazing how much pressure is put on the parents (talk about stress!!!) to give up the baby, and for what? So they can be completely ignored? How about dad or grandma takes the baby and rocks them when mom seriously needs some sleep? Like every twenty minutes, a nurse was trying to take him away from us, despite his sleeping peacefully with my wife. And this was in a midwife birthing center inside a hospital.

    Don't get me started on the 'mother needs her rest' thing! If there wasn't so much unnecessary intervention, birth would go very smoothly (except in rare cases). Mom wouldn't be all woozy if she wasn't drugged up. Mom wouldn't be in so much pain if the delivery wasn't rushed or induced before her body was ready to push. Mom wouldn't be so worn-out tired if her contractions weren't artificially magnified with synthetic oxytocin. If mom's would take back control of their own bodies and give birth instead of having babies taken from them... that would be the best change for our children.

  • Well maybe this explains a lot! I know even 35 years ago after giving birth to my first son they laid him on my stomach for a while. While they finished up "doing stuff" to me. It was a very pleasant experience and such a loving time (finally after all of the pushing and squeezing of my husbands hand). However, one thing I remember for sure - he never even slept through the night until he was at least 9 months old and then it was not consistent. This was an enlightening article.

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