Protecting the mother-child bond

I still get a rush of energy when I look in my son's eyes (now a toddler), reminiscing the moment I first laid eyes on his beautiful face after he was born. I picture it so vividly and clearly. I don't know how I'd get through the tough times not feeling it – but many mother's don't, and struggle with motherhood because of it. Which is why its imperative to know how the mother-child bond is formed.

 After researching the topic I found the creation of the mother-child bond is initiated by a surge of hormones immediately after birth, known as 'birth euphoria'. Mother and baby are flooded with endorphins – inducing a sense of happiness and wellbeing, and oxytocin – inducing a sense of trust, being in love and a need to nurture. It's vital mother and baby are left for at least 60 minutes, in a quiet, safe and private location to bond while these hormones are coursing through their veins. This experience is powerful, and will later prompt mother and child to repeatedly seek to recreate the initial birth high with close skin to skin contact.

Anything that interferes with the normal progression of birth, such as pain medication, epidurals, cesareans, emergency surgery, removal of infant to the ICU or excessive stress, will disturb the delicate process in which the initial mother-child bond is formed.

Oxytocin will only be produced when the mother feels safe. If the mother feels anxious, stressed, frightened or angry, oxytocin will not be produced. Similarly endorphins will only be produced upon the sensation of pain. If the mother has taken anything to reduce pain, such as medication, or had an epidural or cesarean, endorphins will not be produced. It's like a scale, the more interference, the less critical bonding hormones produced.

In animal studies, animal mothers given pain relief during birth, or deprived of birth euphoria in any other way, simply end up rejecting their young. I have no doubt this correlates to the human birth experience, and our epidemic of post-natal-depression.

Bonding Recommendations
  • Stay comfortable, relaxed and confident.
    Be informed and prepared. Have trust and confidence in your instincts and your body's natural abilities.
  • Give birth in a safe, private environment.
    Free of conflict, unwelcome people, disturbing noises, or painful, disruptive procedures.
  • Have continuous physical and emotional support at the birth.
    Have a knowledgeable, caring woman, such as a doula, in addition to the partner, offering comfort measures, good information, positive words, and any other support needed.
  • Avoid pain medications and epidurals.
    Not only do they totally compromise the bonding process, they pass onto the baby affecting its ability to initiate suckling.
  • Hold off non-urgent hospital procedures.
    If the baby has a good Apgar score and appears normal, the baby should not receive a bath, footprinting, administration of vitamin K or eye medication until after the first hour, to allow mother and baby to bond.
  • Lay undressed baby on the mothers bare chest immediately after birth.
    Use a light blanket for warmth. Allow the baby to slowly crawl to the nipple and initiate suckling. The odor of the nipple guides the newborn to the breast. Remain with baby on mother's chest for at least one hour to allow bonding.
  • Make sure you start breastfeeding within one hour.
    Studies show breastfeeding within this timeframe significantly raises the success of mother-child bonding, the continuation of breastfeeding, and decreases likelihood of abandonment.
  • Avoid the nursery and room-in with baby.
    All babies should room-in with their mothers throughout their hospital stay unless this is prevented by illness of the mother or infant.


Bonni Hall: Endorphins, Labour, Pain and Bonding
by Relentless Abundance
Bonding & Undisturbed Attachment 
by Sem Pringpuangkaew M.D., Prawase Wasi M.D,  Dr.Aree Wanyasewi M.D.,  Kaisit TantiSirin M.D., San Singhaphakdee M.D., Rajit Buri M.D.
The Truth About Epidurals
By Carol Gray

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  1. i recently read a newspaper article that was applauding a local hospital for "allowing" the mother to immediately hold and nurse her baby as if it was an earth shattering revelation that nursing/close contact satisfies all the needs of a newborn..... it is appalling that this is not standard practice. love your blog- just stumbled onto it tonight and will be frequenting it

  2. The hospital environment can be so clinical and disempowering, treating mothers and babies like test subjects, rather than supporting and enhancing the natural process of birth and bonding - as should be done.

    I was very lucky in that my midwife was very experienced, doing everything possible to protect and support a natural birth, encouraging me to immediately hold bub and feed bub, sleep with him on my chest, and ensuring bub and I had one-on-one private time for the rest of the night.

    Sad to say this is not standard practice - as shown by your article. So glad to find a like mind!

  3. me as well. thank goodness for the "rare" supportive team