You may have heard about how important the first hour after birth is for bonding between Mum and Baby. Dr. Michel Odent has written much about this vital first hour and why keeping Mum and baby together is important.
But what if this wasn't possible?
The next best thing is skin to skin with Daddy. If this isn't possible, some form of physical contact with him (touching baby's hand or foot), coupled with Daddy speaking to baby in a soothing tone about what is happening and why.
If baby can have skin to skin with Daddy, s/he may root for his nipple and this is a really good thing. It's important to prepare dad for this so that he isn't alarmed or embarrassed.
If Daddy is not involved in the pregnancy and birth of his baby, then whoever is the next most loving influence in a baby's life can take his place - grandma, best friend, sibling etc.
Babys need skin to skin and eye contact in the first hour after birth and the first few days after that. They need to feel the warmth of skin, their mother's smell, and the familiar sounds of breathing rhythms and heartbeat in order to recover well from their birth experience.
Please don't despair if this wasn't possible! The love you have for your baby and the time you spend getting to know each other will have a healing effect, whenever it happens.
The research work of Kirsten Uvnas Moberg on kangaroo care is useful in understanding the role of Oxytocin during and after birth.
Kangaroo care involves carrying premature babies and babies who have experienced trauma during or after birth, skin to skin on a constant basis, either by mum, dad or any loving adult. The skin to skin contact regulates temperature, respiration rates and heart rates in Mum and baby is the best course to take for babies who can breathe without assistance.
Babies need to be cuddled constantly after birth and this should be encouraged as much as possible.
They also need to be talked to and soothed through gentle stroking and minimising noise and lighting. It's worth noting that a newborn baby takes 6 times as long to process what is happening in their environment as an adult, so move and talk slowly and try not to change environment suddenly without explaining to the baby what's happening.
If your baby has to be incubated or treated with lights for Jaundice then stay with your baby as much as you can, or if possible arrange that someone is with them at all times. It's very soothing and beneficial for them to be talked to, sung to and reassured as to what is happening and why. It can be very healing for you both if you talk to your baby about their birth and particularly when they are crying, check in with what time it is and think back to what was happening during the labour at this time.
Share the story with your baby- as it feels right to you. It can be helpful to remember that you both experienced the birth, from different perspectives and explaining what was going on for you at that time or, why interventions may have been needed can be healing for you both.
If childbirth was traumatic it isn't hard to get stuck in the mother's trauma and forget about how difficult it must have been for baby. Think about what happens when a friend confides in you after something stressful has been experienced. All you have to do is listen and empathise. Maybe now is not the time, but when you feel ready, will be a perfect time. Some mothers like to talk to their babies and older children, whilst they are sleeping. Trust yourself to find an appropriate way if you feel it would benefit you both.
Sometimes a baby just needs to be able to cry and be heard! Let your baby know you are willing to hear them, that what they went through must have been really hard for them too.
If you watch your baby's movements you will begin to see patterns emerge. These movements are the way your baby can talk to you about what was happening as they were coming into the world - what s/he had to do in order to come out. Just watch and acknowledge, and let them be. Remember that; noticing fixes more than fixing!
Time will be your greatest healer, and skin to skin contact will help the hormones kick in properly so that you can breastfeed your baby and benefit from the feelgood hormones you produce as a result. Its never too late to get skin to skin!
If breastfeeding is not an option then know that love is more important than anything else in the world. Feed your baby with love, whatever you are feeding him/her. Relax and centre yourself with some conscious deep breathing. Make sure that you are 'present' for the feed, that you are offering eye contact and physical contact.
It can be very useful to look into probiotics and organic formulas and note that goat's milk is considered much closer to breastmilk than cows milk. Please look at our pages on feeding for more info. If you would like to order some Bio-Kult probiotics please email us.
The issue of probiotics is worth considering further as there are many ways they are important. If you'd like to learn more about why probiotics may be good for you and your baby if any antibiotics were administered during pregnancy or birth, or you've been told you have thrush or your baby isn't breastfed by watching this video with Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride.