Babies aren’t born ready to be on their own.
It sounds like I’m stating the obvious, I know, but based on how Western culture treats its babies I might be speaking blasphemy.
Babies aren’t born ready to sleep alone.
Babies aren’t born ready to be removed from their mother immediately after birth, nor are they ready to be separated from her for 8-10 hours at a time when they’re just weeks old.
Babies aren’t born ready to be independent or self-soothe.
In fact, human babies are more reliant on their caregivers for a longer period of time than any other species.
Mother and baby experience a unique and precious unity before birth, which is meant to continue after birth through physical touch and loving attention from mother toward baby.
In “Biosociology: An Emerging Paradigm,” author Anthony Walsh writes:
“Although intrauterine experiences can exert influence on the infant’s subsequent development, the experiences it has during the ten months or so after birth are of greater experience…a continuing symbiotic relation between mother and child designed to endure an unbroken continuum until the infant’s brain weight has more than doubled.”
So what does that mean? What do babies really need in their first nine months?
They need to be in constant, close proximity to their mother.
What?!?!? In this modern day and age where momma has to go back to work 2-3 weeks, or if she’s lucky 2-3 months, after giving birth? That’s just crazy talk! It’s not possible!
– Nature intended for babies to be with their mothers, especially at a time when their brains will grow more than any other time in their lives. Babies could not have been born developmentally incomplete and left alone most of the day or separated from their mothers if we were to survive as a species.
– Mother-infant intimacy and physical contact is important not only for brain growth, but for overall physical growth. Infants who are severely deprived of touch do not secrete growth hormone.
– The Developmental Psychobiology Research Group at the University of Colorado Medical center reported how monkeys separated from their mothers for a brief period of time stopped producing leukocytes to fight off infection. When reunited with their mothers, their immune system returned to normal and started producing leukocytes again.
– When a baby is held close to her mother, her cues are easier to read. Communication between them is made easier. When her cues are responded to, she learns that she can “trust” that her needs will be met, that she is loved and will be provided for. This sets the foundation for her fundamental self-esteem and the foundation for all subsequent relationships that she will have in her life. (source)
So next time someone tells you that you’ll spoil your baby if you let her sleep with you, if you nurse her “on demand,” if you pick her up often, or if you hold her often and your instincts are telling you otherwise…follow your instincts. Your entire biology is likely guiding you to where you should be…
With your baby.
(And if, like me, you’re one of the many working moms who had to return to the office soon after birth, just make the absolute most of every moment spent with your baby. She will still feel secure and loved. Don’t worry. It will be enough.)