The cutting of the umbilical cord tends to herald the arrival of a new and unique life. Though this tiny being began its existence many months before, growing nestled and protected within the womb, the just-born infant is seen as an individual apart from his or her mother. There is, however, a significant error in this thinking, for baby and mother are one, so to speak, and severing this unit denies an empirical truth. Birth should not be a celebration of separation, but rather a reuniting of mother and baby, who joins her for an external connection. –Barbara Latterner, in the book New Lives [emphasis mine]
I felt like this was a completely relevant quote for our Independence Day weekend. A baby has no concept of the notion of independence. Even though we live in a culture that pushes for independence at young ages, all babies are born hard-wired for connection. For dependence. It is completely biologically appropriate and is the baby’s first and most potent instinct. I remind mothers that after birth your chest literally becomes your new baby’s habitat. Mother’s body is baby’s home—the maternal nest. If the baby cries when you put her down, that means you have a smart baby! Not a “dependent” or “manipulative” one. People are fond of making comments about babies being “spoiled” if they are held often. It is impossible to spoil a baby by responding to her needs (why do people have such an issue with other people holding babies anyway?). I am 100% certain that it is impossible to “spoil” any baby under the age of one by answering her when she cries and giving her what she needs (which at this point is food, warmth, safety, love, and physical closeness). One of LLL’s pearls of wisdom is, “a baby’s wants are a baby’s needs”—-there is no difference between them at this age. A baby is not “manipulating” you by crying for you to come to her and then stopping when you pick her up—-that is a perfect example of skillful mother-baby communication (if someone says, “she is only crying to get you to pick her up” the answer is “yes! She is! Isn’t she smart!”) .
New Lives is a compilation of essays by NICU nurses and it is no surprise to me that the essay from which the above quote comes was written by a former LLL Leader 🙂
Speaking of LLL, at the last international conference in 2007 I was fortunate enough to hear Dr. Nils Bergman speak about skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, and perinatal neuroscience. In super short summary: babies NEED to be with their mothers following birth in order to develop proper neural connections and ensure healthy brain development and proper brain “organization”; Mother’s chest is baby’s natural post-birth “habitat” and is of vital developmental and survival significance; Breastfeeding = Brain wiring.
And, as long as I’m reminiscing about the conference and Dr. Bergman, in fact I actually ended up “performing” on stage with him in a mimed play put on immediately prior to his presentation! He is a dynamic and engaging speaker (with a great accent!) and has so much of value to share. I will never forget hearing his duet with an LLL Leader of the song, “Anything Tech Can Do, Mum Can Do Better.”
Yes she can, yes she can, yes she CAAAANNNNNN!!
Today, let’s celebrate being in dependence with our babies 🙂