The mother’s care during the birthing process is important because this delicate period is crucial to preventing developmental trauma during childbirth. The birthing process becomes a critical part of the child’s relational template and internal working model of the world. Developmental trauma during the birth often causes deep a relational disconnect between mother and child. This wounding can often be prevented by the use of a Doula.
A Doula is a birth assistant whose job is to care for the mother during the labor and delivery. These trained birth assistants focus on the mother’s needs while the midwife or medical assistants focus on the infant’s needs.
Doulas typically begin their work with the family during the prenatal period, preparing everyone for the birth process. They provide emotional support for mothers during the labor period if they get discouraged or scared and physical support through massage and holding. Doulas are trained to help the mother stay focused on their connection with the baby and attend to the signals the child is sending to the mother so that she can maintain emotional synchrony with the child during the birthing process. Doulas also help parents maximize the bonding period immediately following birth. Every mother should have a doula before, during, and immediately after the birth of their child.
In Great Britain, for example, each mother is automatically assigned a personal doula when she checks into the birthing clinic. This became an accepted practice because it reduced the mother’s hospital stay. The research revealed fewer Cesarean births and fewer birth complications, making the use of doulas an economic issue in Britain’s socialized medical system.
Other Important Essentials for Strong Birth Bonding
There are other significant components of emotional attunement and bonding, such as eye contact between the mother and child. Until recently, adults assumed that newborn infants couldn’t see. In fact, infants are myopic, or nearsighted, and able to see optimally at a distance of about 12 inches. Interestingly, this is the distance from the breast to the mother’s face.
Nursing newborns or infants held close to the breast can focus their eyes on the faces of their mothers. Everything else they see is out of focus. Mother Nature is pretty intelligent. She creates newborns with the kind of eyesight needed for good bonding.
The first experiences of eye contact between parent and child are very important for bonding. Ideally, it allows you to see your child’s essence and feel a sense of anticipation and discovery about this unique and unfolding individual.
If your parents looked at you and were unable to really see your essence, this impacted your ability to bond with them. Perhaps your mother thought, “I want you to grow up to be a beautiful actress” or your father thought, “I want you to grow up to be a doctor.”
Parents often project their own unfulfilled wishes and dreams onto their children. Children, even newborns, are so attuned to their parents that they can perceive when they are being received unconditionally and when they are not.
In addition to the extended skin-to-skin contact recommended during the first 12 to 36 hours after birth, research indicates that a full body massage given to infants immediately after birth while lying in a tub of warm water, can enhance the bonding process.
It is best if the mother or father does this massage, although someone with formal massage training is next best. Head-to-toe touch activates the infant’s nervous system and releases chemicals that activate brain cells. Repeated infant massages by the mother and/or father during the first several months after birth can also facilitate deeper bonding.
Singing to the young infant is also very important. Infants can recognize tunes they heard while they were in the womb. Michael Odent (1984) is famous for having groups of parents and prospective parents sing together around a piano.
It is also important to maintain eye contact while speaking to the infant in soft, loving tones. As the child begins to respond with smiles and laughter, the positive effects of resonance and early bonding emerge. Mirroring infants’ sounds and smiles helps build early communication. Well-bonded infants naturally respond with curiosity to other friends and family. Mis-attuned infants will be fearful of others and cling to their parents or comfort objects.