Tuesday Tidbits: Birth Imprinting

What are imprinting upon newborns at birth in our culture?

As Sister MorningStar writes in her article The Newborn Imprint in Midwifery Today issue 104, Winter 2012…

If you have had the misfortune, as nearly all of us who can read and write have had, to see a baby born, perhaps pulled out, under bright lights with glaring eyes and loud noises of all sorts, in a setting that smells like nothing human, with a mother shocked and teary and scared; if you have witnessed or performed touch that can only be described as brutal and cruel in any other setting…

Every baby born deserves uninterrupted, undisturbed contact with her mother in the environment the mother has nested by her own instinctual nature to create. Any movement we make to enter that inner and external womb must be acknowledged as disturbing and violating to what nature is protecting. We do not know the long-term effects of such disturbance. We cannot consider too seriously a decision to disturb a newborn by touch, sound, light, smell and taste that is different and beyond what the mother is naturally and instinctually providing. Even facilitating is often unnecessary if the motherbaby are given space and time to explore and relate to one another and the life-altering experience they just survived. They both have been turned inside out, one from the other, and the moment to face that seemingly impossible feat cannot be rushed without compromise. We have no right to compromise either a mother or a baby.

I am deliberately leaving out the issue of life-saving because it has become the license for full-scale abuse to every baby born… [emphasis mine]

In the same issue in an article called Problems in American Maternal Health Care, Dan Currin points out:

Americans put a lot of trust in their physicians. We are socialized to believe that physicians are the only ones capable of taking care of us. For everything from how to eat to how to die, the mantra is the same in the US: ‘Ask your doctor.’ Meanwhile, physicians are more and more subject to a system that, as Gaskin describes, favors the priorities of hospitals, insurances companies and doctors above the best interests of mothers and their babies

And, Judy Slome Cohain writing in Collusion and Negligence in Hospitals describes it thusly:

To err is considered human, even when it involves maternal death, at a hospital birth. When a woman dies from malpractice after birth the protocol is to hold meetings to consider how to improve relevant protocols to prevent future disasters. Survival of the hospital is first and foremost. However, if a woman dies at an attended homebirth, the Ministry of Health policy is to start a case against the guilty part in a disciplinary court…”

I wrote about birth imprinting in another short post, The Magic of Mothering and about the notion of consulting your health care provider in some thoughts about Women’s Power and Self-Authority.

We also need to consider the role of birth “imprinting” on the breastfeeding relationship:

New mothers, and those who help them, are often left wondering, “Where did breastfeeding go wrong?” All too often the answer is, “during labor and birth.” Interventions during the birthing process are an often overlooked answer to the mystery of how breastfeeding becomes derailed. An example is a mother who has an epidural, which leads to excess fluid retention in her breasts (a common side effect of the IV “bolus” of fluid administered in preparation for an epidural). After birth, the baby can’t latch well to the flattened nipple of the overfull breast, leading to frustration for both mother and baby. This frustration can quickly cascade into formula supplementation and before she knows it, the mother is left saying, “something was wrong with my nipples and the baby just couldn’t breastfeed. I tried really hard, but it just didn’t work out.” Nothing is truly wrong with her nipples or with her baby, breastfeeding got off track before her baby was even born!

via The Birth-Breastfeeding Continuum | Talk Birth.


If she came with it label, it would say: Imprint with Care…

*Short post today because I’m out-of-town again! What the heck?! I need a vacation from vacations!

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