Last updated on Jun 25th, 2015 at 12:52 pm
The nine months in utero is a period of preparation for you and your new baby. During this time, you ponder and prepare, you will dream about your new baby and envisage the type of mom you will be. This time gives you the space to get ready to parent your little one. At the same time, your tiny baby grows and develops and begins the journey in becoming the person he will be.
Pregnancy and time in the womb is the best preparation for you and your baby. But as he lies on your arms minutes after birth the realisation will dawn that all that time in the womb was really only the start and the real journey into becoming a little person begins as your baby emerges from womb to world.
The perfect state to meet mom and dad
Immediately after birth you will find your baby is very alert and attentive to you. There is a good reason for this. In the last few weeks in utero, your baby is contained in a very tight space with deep pressure from the womb walls. In addition during birth your baby moves down a very narrow canal. All this deep pressure touch (from the womb walls and the birth canal) is very soothing for your baby, like a deep massage, and is the reason for the calm alert state.
In addition, during the birth process, your baby’s brain releases stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that are needed at the time of birth and just after. The combination of the stress hormones and the deep pressure put your baby in to an alert but calm state for the first few hours after birth. This state prepares your baby for bonding in the early hours and days. In this alert state, your baby will make eye contact with you, look at your face intently and even mimic your mouth movements!
This precious state provides a wonderful time to meet and engage with your baby.
Making eye contact
Until only a few decades ago, people believed babies were blind at birth, like newborn puppies. We now know that not only is this untrue but your baby can actually see in full colour and with perfect focus at a distance of 20cm. Any closer or further and your baby will lose focus.
Even more amazing is that 20cm is the distance from your eyes to your nipple so as your baby lies at your breast; he can focus on your face. Within minutes of birth, your baby’s eyes will move around the room in tiny movements we call saccades. He will continue to do this until his eyes lock in on yours. Your baby is wired to bond with you and searches for your face. Turn down the light as soon as he is born so that your baby is not startled by bright lights but can find your face and focus on you.
Prepared to feed
Your miracle baby will not cease to amaze you. Within an hour of birth, a baby placed on his mother’s chest can find his way to the breast and begin to feed with almost no assistance!
There are three critical reflexes that prepare your baby to do this. Firstly, when placed on his tummy on your chest, your newborn can coordinate little creeping movements that will bring him to his food source. Even more amazing, is the fact that at birth your baby can identify where your milk is just by smell. Newborns who are presented with two cotton wool swabs, one with his own mother’s milk expressed on to it and another with another mother’s milk will turn towards the smell of his own mom’s milk.
Once your baby finds your nipple, or is brought to the breast, the rooting reflex will help him orient to take your nipple into his mouth. The rooting reflex helps your baby to turn towards touch on the cheek. Then it’s the sucking reflex that helps your baby get feeding right.
I hear your voice
By 16 weeks in utero, your baby hears and responds to sounds. Of course the sound he knows best is the sound of your voice, which he hears often and clearly during pregnancy. Amazingly, within minutes of birth your baby will turn to your voice. He knows your voice and even can hear the difference between the language you speak and another. Right from birth your baby’s brain is wired to understand language and to respond to his mother tongue.
Within minutes of birth your baby will turn to your voice.
Hold me, touch me
Coming from the soothing sensory space of the womb, where your baby has had skin to skin touch for nine long months (his skin against your uterus walls), he will crave your touch.
Skin to skin care, which involves placing your naked baby (with only a nappy) on your naked chest and covering you both with a blanket is a wonderful way to ease your baby from womb to world.
Full term and prem babies do well with skin to skin care and your chest will act as a natural incubator to warm your baby up. Even babies delivered by caesarean section can be nurtured on mum’s chest immediately after birth, unless they are very fragile or medically ill.
Skin to skin care is a wonderful way to ease your baby from womb to world.
Time to sleep
Immediately after birth you will be on such a high and your baby will be in the calm alert state. This is the perfect time to begin the bonding process. However, after a period of engaging, you and your baby will be overcome with exhaustion. You will both do well to drop off to sleep. Your baby can sleep on you or in a crib right next to your bed.
Research has shown that babies who room in with their mums in the first three days, breastfeed for a longer time in the first year of life. If you are exhausted and have had a tough time and need to sleep without your baby in the same room, request he is brought to you to feed as soon as he cries.
Getting to know your baby
Your baby is a miracle, he comes equipped on a sensory level to bond, learn and interact with you. But that does not mean this period of ‘womb to world’ is a breeze. In utero your baby had all his needs met constantly without ever having to communicate his needs. Although your baby does have a language of his own from the early days, he may battle to interpret his internal sensory input and you may take time to learn your baby’s unique signals. Take the time to slow down and look out for them from early on.
The first 24 hours and the weeks that follow are an amazing journey of getting to know your baby. From his sight, hearing and early reflexes to his brain connections, your baby is wired to bond with you as a social being.
Take the time to engage with your baby and embark on the most special relationship of your life.
About the Author: Meg Faure is the co-author of the best selling Baby Sense and other ‘Sense-series books’. An Occupational Therapist, Meg has a passion for keeping little ones calm, sleeping well and developing optimally. Meg founded the Baby Sense company, lectures internationally and is a journalist in the field of baby care. Parent With Sense: Meg is active on various social media platforms. Like her Facebook Page (link to: https://www.facebook.com/MegFaureOfficial ) Follow @MegFaure on Twitter (link to: https://twitter.com/megfaure) or Visit her website at www.megfaure.com