Skin-to-skin contact is our BIOLOGY
|Skin-to-skin contact is
|It is the only place in which newborns have survived for the last million years, and developed toward optimal health.|
The human newborn is born very immature compared to other mammals ( except the kangaroo!). It is believed that this is because the human brain will grow much bigger than the mother’s pelvic outlet. Human brain at birth is 25% of final adult size, any bigger and it would not get out vaginally. Though so small – it is however NOT helpless and useless. What we see in all mammals (biology) is that newborns have highly competent behaviours that ensure their survival and subsequent development. From puppies to polar bears, cats to camels, all newborn have set sequences of behaviours that lead to breastfeeding. In most instances mothers do not help at all. Even more, these behaviours are necessary, they need reinforcing on one hand, and they are the platform for later behaviours and development. We call this a “highly conserved neuroendocrine behavior”, and it is defining for the “mammalian brain”. The behaviour in the baby is linked to mother’s brain behaviour.
Human infants have this exact “highly conserved neuroendocrine behavior”. Without any help at all they can crawl from the mother’s abdomen to the breast and start suckling. Along the way they make eye contact, and the breast happens to be at just the right distance to focus on mother’s face. But just like all other mammals, this depends on being with the mother. Separation disrupts this behavior, and disturbs development.
At school we learn about “basic biological needs” – warmth, food and shelter. We health professionals translate these to longer words – thermoregulation, nutrition and protection. So in my stating that SSC is our BIOLOGY, it is exactly for this reason. Mother’s body provides the infant at all times with a stable heat source, but also a dynamically responsive one that helps regulate the infant’s temperature in a very narrow range. Her breasts produce odors that attract the baby, and then produce purely protective contents for two days, before the milk/food starts. (Small hypothesis: maybe the baby needs two days of protective factors from colostrum before the milk starts because the gut is so immature.) Meanwhile the mother is so amazed and dazzled by this competent behavior and the eye to eye contact, that she falls in love with the baby, and will protect it with her life.
The basic biological needs serve as “regulators”. The baby learns that this temperature is the good one to have, and fixes its own thermostat to that temperature. It does the same to heart rate, blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and the myriad of different systems that make up the total homeostasis. In the safe and ideal environment of the mother, the “physiological set points” are efficient and economical, and allow maximum use of energy to be directed towards growth.
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