The birthing process itself can have profound effects on the development of a child. The research of Klaus and Kennell (1976), who popularized the word “bonding,” created the first scenario for optimal birthing conditions. According to their findings, the nude newborn should be placed on the mother’s chest near her breast immediately after birth. Then infants should be allowed to find the breast on their own and begin nursing.
Klaus (1995) found that babies who were placed on their mother’s chest and engaged in extended mutual eye contact could find their mother’s breast within a short time. The newborn’s sense of smell helps them accomplish this important task.
Dr. Lennart Righard of Sweden (1992) has produced incredible videotape, Delivery Self Attachment, showing a newborn making this trek up his mother’s body to breastfeed.
The umbilical cord should not be cut until the umbilical blood separates, with part flowing into the mother and the other part into the child. This is the final piece of the child’s physical birth experience. Ideally, the mother is awake enough to participate in this important event. Many mothers, unfortunately, are drugged and unable to actively participate.
Research by Marshall Klaus (1995) and his colleagues regarding conditions for optimal maternal/infant bonding recommends extended skin-to-skin contact during the first 36 hours after birth, suckling during the first hour following birth, and “rooming in” arrangements that keep the parents and child together.
When these conditions were present at birth, Klaus found a marked drop in early child abuse. One study from a hospital in Thailand, quoted by Klaus (1995), indicated that the presence of these procedures at birth reduced the number of abandoned babies from 33 to 1. Klaus also found that babies cry when they are taken away from their mothers during the first 90 minutes after birth, but do not cry if kept together during this time period.
Klaus, M. (1995). “The importance of post-natal relationships.” Speech given at the 7th International Congress Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. San Francisco, CA, September 30, 1995. Klaus, M. & J. Kennell (1976). Parent-Infant Bonding. Mosby: St. Louis.