November 07, 2011
Separating Mom From Baby At Birth Stresses Infant?

Less quiet sleep and more brain activity when a baby is separated from its mother right after birth.

New York, November 2, 2011 -- A woman goes into labor, and gives birth. The newborn is swaddled and placed to sleep in a nearby bassinet, or taken to the hospital nursery so that the mother can rest. Despite this common practice, new research published in Biological Psychiatry provides new evidence that separating infants from their mothers is stressful to the baby.

It is standard practice in a hospital setting, particularly among Western cultures, to separate mothers and their newborns. Separation is also common for babies under medical distress or premature babies, who may be placed in an incubator. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends against co-sleeping with an infant, due to its association with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

Humans are the only mammals who practice such maternal-neonate separation, but its physiological impact on the baby has been unknown until now. Researchers measured heart rate variability in 2-day-old sleeping babies for one hour each during skin-to-skin contact with mother and alone in a cot next to mother's bed. Neonatal autonomic activity was 176% higher and quiet sleep 86% lower during maternal separation compared to skin-to-skin contact.

How many easily avoidable ways have we changed our environments that have increased our stress and made us less healthy?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 November 07 06:35 AM  Brain Development

bbartlog said at November 7, 2011 7:25 AM:

Another stupid thing they do in hospitals is to cut the umbilical cord too soon, before the necessary amount of blood has been moved from placenta to infant. On the birth of my firstborn I had told the doctor that I wanted to cut the umbilicus myself (not out of any tradition, though I believe that exists too, but to avoid this problem). In the event, I still had to physically interpose my hand to stop the doctor from cutting the cord some ten seconds after the baby came out. Practically speaking you want a couple of minutes at least, though there is no reason you can't wait for hours if you are so inclined.
My second two kids were delivered at home.
As regards cosleeping, we did that too. I expect there is a slightly increased chance of death by squashing/suffocation, if you look at the whole population; however, this is basically a question of self-awareness. Are you a really deep sleeper? Do you drink yourself into an alcoholic stupor? Are you very overweight? If you have none of these risk factors, you won't kill your baby. But even given a tiny chance of death, you have to balance that against other possible overall benefits.

Fat Man said at November 7, 2011 11:08 AM:

"separating infants from their mothers is stressful to the baby."

If you think that is stressful, wait to you tell them that they can't live in your house and eat for free for the rest of their lives.

Life is stressful, being dead is easy. If sleeping in the other room is the most stressful thing that ever happens to you, you have lead a very sheltered life.

Phillep Harding said at November 7, 2011 5:56 PM:

Seperating mother and child seems suspect to me. Farmers seperate cows and their calves at birth to keep the cow from bonding, I wonder if this seperation decreases the bond the human mother feels to her offspring.

Fatman, I think you are out of line.

Tari said at November 7, 2011 6:50 PM:

Add the permanent separation of adoption and wow, you have a really screwed up kid. Especially in states that have a waiting period before a child can be delivered to the adoptive parents. Imagine the stress on an infant, going 4-6 months without a parent (birth or adoptive) and either (1) bonding with a foster mom who will (in his mind) reject him or (2) not bonding with anyone (because the foster mom quite rightly doesn't want to torture herself by becoming attached to a child she cannot keep.) But adoption is glorious, and the State always has the best interests of the child in mind. ::sarcasm::

red said at November 8, 2011 12:30 AM:

"Farmers seperate cows and their calves at birth to keep the cow from bonding, I wonder if this seperation decreases the bond the human mother feels to her offspring."

It does. Bonding chemicals are highest right after birth for both mother and child.

Shelly said at November 9, 2011 8:22 AM:

There is something to this study and what brings the most pleasure and relaxation to the infant. Being with their mother, hearing her heartbeat and feeling her body heat does just that. I delivered premature triplets at 28 weeks. 1) The NICU and our Charlotte pediatrician wanted their rooms to be as quiet has possible. They wanted them in the most restful state in order to let them spend their energy on growing more. 2) The NICU often encouraged me and my husband to hold the babies skin to skin. Apparently that relaxes the infant and allows for the best "work" to happen in their development. No stress is best for an infant. They have enough time later in life to be stressed!

And Teri, adopted kids are "screwed up". It's often in their best interest to be adopted. I hate to think about the children that are in limbo before finding a family and yes, that does something to a child's development but they aren't "screwed up".

Jeff said at March 15, 2014 1:08 AM:

Having been both premature AND adopted, I can say with a fair amount ofcertainty that given the circumstances, I would rather be screwed up than dead. Or wait, maybe not. Can I find my birth mother and sue her for NOT having an abortion? I was 8 weeks early, incubated and then1 in a foster home until I was 18 days old. Granted, not the six to 8 months that some states require, but it might as well be a million years to an infant. I had no bonding during that time. In addition, the brilliant foster mother put me in a crib down the hall and reported to my adoptive mother that I "slept well through the night." Rarely does this occur naturally and with no health complications. I did wake during the night, as my mother discovered, but I had Weak Cry Syndrome and the foster mother couldn't hear me begging for food. so I was starved as well. My hypothalamus and amygdala (sp) were being permanently wired for threat response. Exaggerated temper tantrums, heavy emotional connection and over personalization of mildly threatening events, hostility, anger, and outward defiance of authority figures plagued my life. If you can't have your baby, keep it, bond with it and have a good environment for it to thrive, please have an abortion. It is what they are there for.

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