Today I want to write about something truly obvious, but often forgotten. We, the tech-savy, brilliant, analytical, adapted to extreme-comfort living, humans, are actually MAMMALS. Mammals, yes, same as our dogs, cats, horses, and yes, apes. In so much of life, the fact that we are mammals does not play a real significant role. Attorneys, computer experts, managers of companies or businesses, salespeople, etc do not need to remember they are mammals in order to do their best work. Midwives, however, do.
When a woman is pregnant, and preparing to give birth and care for her new baby, there is a lot of information out there about how to "do it". This advice often includes the latest run-down on prenatal testing and lab studies, hospitals in the area for delivery, and many gadgets to soothe and carry newborn babies in. Yet despite all these technological advances, cesarean section rates are at a ridiculous and unneccesary 30% in the US, postpartum depression and breastfeeding problems are epidemic, and children are exhibiting learning disorders and behavioral issues at unheard of, record-breaking rates. What is going on?
What is going on is that this approach denies some of the most basic things a woman needs to give birth and properly care for her baby. These are things that all mammals need to sucessfully birth and attach to their babies. We need only to look as far as the closet, where kitty-cat has just had her kittens, to see what they are.
Labor works best when a woman is in a dark, warm, private place like her own bedroom. In this environment, the front part of her brain , the cerebral cortex, quiets down, so the deep, core brain, responsible for the hormones that actually cause labor and birth, can activate and take over. As a midwife, when I come to your home during your labor, I enter quietly and just slip into the room, so as not to disturb your labor process. All mammals find dark, private corners to birth in, this is just nature doing her thing! I never tell women where or how they should labor, and almost always, a woman will end up in a corner of her bedroom or tucked into her bathroom, just like kitty in the closet.
Baby mammals are incredible little creatures! They are all so adorable with their big eyes and wet fresh bodies; puppies, kittens, calves, and humans alike. They are also brilliantly hardwired for life on earth, after being in their watery wombs. Ever watch kittens or puppies or piglets find their scrappy little ways to their mama's nipples and start nursing? It is an amazing sight - no lactation consultant required. They all just do it - it is in their wiring. Well, guess what folks.....human babies will do the same exact thing ! A baby placed naked on her mama's chest will find her way to the breast and feed within about an hour of life. This is called the breastcrawl. They only have problems because 1. they are born drugged (hospital birth only) which suppresses their reflexes, or 2. we, the well-meaning health-care professionals, parents, and friends, FUSS with them. The very worst sort of fussing, is, of course, SEPARATING mother and baby for weights, measurements, cleaning, etc.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so check out these incredible videos...
Enjoy, keep your laboring selves comfy and private, your newborns right ON you at all times, and we will continue our discussion of our mammal-hood the next time.