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  Home  > The First Year  > Myth: Separating Mother and Newborn after Birth Is Harmless

Myth: Separating Mother and Newborn after Birth Is Harmless

Fact: While bonding begins before birth and comes into full bloom in the first weeks and months of life, the first few hours are extremely important in the development of the mother-child relationship. Mother is genetically programmed to become deeply involved, on an emotional level, with her newborn, and the first few hours is a time of quiet alertness for the infant who is programmed to expect her response. Separation of mother and infant at this time violates what could well be considered the most universal of all evolutionary principles.

Bonding is facilitated as the mother responds positively to the newborn's engagement and disengagement cues, remaining in constant physical contact, and soothing baby when necessary through eye contact, smiling, and touch. Bonding involves the specific hormones of oxytocin and prolactin. Breastfeeding is one of the most critical factors in maintaining high levels of these bonding hormones. While scientific evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding for physical health is overwhelming, breastfeeding may be most important for the role it plays in attachment, initiating in the mother the production of neurohormones associated with nurturing and love.

..[A] secure psychophysiological body-connection between mother and infant is the first foundation of love upon which all other love relationships are built. - James W. Prescott, PhD

The human primate is the only mammal that separates the newborn and mother, and denies the newborn succor from the mother's breast.

To interfere with or destroy this intimacy is to risk interrupting a vital psychological process that may reduce the woman's confidence in herself as a mother and interfere with the flow of communication between her and her baby. - Marshall Klaus

Bonding is not something that occurs exclusively during the first hours after birth. It begins in the womb, possibly even prior to conception. After birth, it continues through the interactions between mother and infant throughout the early months and years of life outside of the womb. The infant's first hours in the atmosphere are crucial to her future view of the world. Mothers who, for any reason, miss out on the first hours or days of intimate contact with their babies, can create a healthy attachment, but it will require extra effort on the mother's part. While each baby comes into this world with her own temperament and tendencies, they are continually affected and shaped by everything that goes on around her.

A quiet, unharried time following the birth offers mother and father a sensitive and sacred and period in which to fully embrace, physically emotionally, and spiritually, this newly-formed family. It is the strength of this attachment that grows between infant and parent that makes it possible for parents to make the sacrifices required to care optimally for this newly-arrived being who is totally dependent on them.

Siblings also bond emotionally with the newborn during this sensitive period.


Suzanne Arms, The Immaculate Deception II: Myth, Magic and Birth
Marshall Klaus, Nurturing the Mother
James W. Prescott, (1996) The Origins of Human Love and Violence. Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Journal, 10(3):143-18
Thomas R. Verny, Nurturing Your Baby from Conception

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