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Our Babies, Ourselves – 3

Posted by Sandra on April 14, 2009

Very interesting chapter on the “entwined relationship” between a baby and her mother and father.  Again, this is from the awesome book “Our Babies, Ourselves” by Meredith F. Small.  Here’s my blog #1 and blog #2 about some of the great research and information.  Get this book… you won’t regret it!

…More remarkable, lab research has also shown that the connection between babies and parents is deeply physiological.  In one study of infant reaction to mothers, fathers, and strangers, an infant girl was brought into a lab and set in a plastic seat that was curtained off from distractions.  The baby was then approached by her mother, then her father, and then a stranger.  Chest monitors on the baby and the adults showed that the baby synchronized her heart rate to that of the mother or father when they approached, but she did not synchronize her heart rate to the stranger’s.  The data suggests that babies and their caretakers are entwined in a homeostatic relationship, with the baby clicking in with the parents to achieve some sort of balance.

(my note:  this is perhaps why co-sleeping is safer than crib sleeping, since baby synchronizes her heart with ours?  Reason #572 to have a family bed!!)

…We are convinced that a “good” interaction, mother and baby synchronize with each other from the beginning, and that the pathways may be set up in intrauterine life ready to be entrained, especially by the mothers, immediately after birth. 

Entrainment then explains why infants left alone will cry.  They are dealing with the unexpected – they are alone.  Being tiny primates, the are adapted to expect an entrainment, and physical and emotional attachment, a connection with a more mature version of their kind.  They cry out of surprise, out of confusion, out of an unconscious “knowing” that something is wrong.    … Regulatating its world by sleeping, crying, or staying quietly alert is the most powerful thing a baby can do, says Brazelton, and we should respect this ability and tend to it (emphasis mine).

(my note:  notice they do not cry to “manipulate”, that word seen all too often written by “experts” who advise a mother to ignore their baby’s basic needs and leave them to cry – to “train” them… makes ME cry!)

From all we know, every primate baby is designed to be physically attached to someone who will feed, protect, and care for it, and teach it about being human – they have been adapted over millions of years to expect nothing less.

And yet there are parents out there that believe neglecting their crying child is the right thing to do.  Somewhere in their minds and hearts, they lost that nurturing, loving connection, and I hope they will learn it before it’s too late.

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5 Responses to “Our Babies, Ourselves – 3”

  1. Kay said

    You know, sometimes I think parents just make it harder than it has to be. Babies need their needs met and when that doesn’t happen, the consequences can be devastating later in life. Letting a child cry is not meeting their needs.

  2. Michelle said

    I absolutely love this book. It was one of the first I read when I started seriously considering becoming a parent some day. And it’s something I’ve seen work with friends and family members and their new additions (adoption and birth babies and toddlers!) That’s one of the things that is exciting me the most about my future career as a midwife — I’ll have such an intimate connection to new families and I will hopefully be able to assist them in making decisions that work for their families and their babies. This is one of those books I’ve bought and handed out, along with The Continuum Concept.

  3. Regina Ockelmann said

    I’m sorry, but “Our Babies, Ourselves” has many ideas and concepts that are not approved by the AAP and the AAFP. As a mother of a 20 year old Stanford student who is happy and well adjusted and who was not a co-sleeper, breast fed on demand, or held at all times, I have to say that the ideas espoused by this book are not useful for most parents and can make many feel guilty for dealing with their child’s issues in a practical fashion. One can be a good parent and have a happy child without conforming to ideas that work in theory and not in practice.

    • Sandra said

      Sure, as long as “practical” isn’t neglectful (i.e., leaving baby to cry – that’s never practical) then you’re right. If a parent is unable to tend to baby’s needs, then that parent needs to rethink their priorities. It’s never impossible to hold a baby, safely co-sleep, and ensure baby isn’t neglected by being left alone to cry in need of her mother. But just because you didn’t co-sleep doesn’t make you a “bad” parent either! It’s what works for each family, without crossing the line into abuse and neglect (crying it out, spanking, etc.).

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