by Felicia McKeeman
BWI cross-certification student, childbirth educator, doula and assistant midwife
I personally have found this a very beautiful process of unlearning to relearn how to care for the human baby. The way we treat them and care for them; helps them to grow and develop. We must help stop the unnecessary need to take the baby away from the mother. Teaching this is the main way people will help the baby to reach its full brain potential and bond to the mother for regulation.
Relegation is the key for the rest of the baby's life. When we take the baby away from mom, they are in a stressful state of fight-or-flight. This causes cortisol to increase and when swaddled the baby looks like they are quiet and calm. However, inside their heart is racing, and they are not coping well. (As they settle and sleep, they are actually exhausted and can’t cry anymore.) The brain is sending signals to the body – this is not a safe time and we must stay still. When we create the situation (where the baby feels this way) it is teaching them this is what their world will look like.
Babies are not objects; they have their own likes, dislikes, and primary experiences. Mothers and parents must learn this, and I can see this as a tool to help my clients to understand how to better care for their baby. This will help the babies, mothers, and supporters to best care for the needs of the baby as a person and not an object. It is key to teach parents the importance of the early moments the baby is experiencing [when they are born with bright lights, the feeling of other people's hands, strange objects touching them, cold rooms, etc.]
The baby's brain is telling us many things while it is breastfeeding. Babies who are breastfeeding feel the safest and pleasurable sensations, giving their brain signals to relax. Seeing their mother's eyes give the baby contact for context to know all is safe. The visual cortex with eyes open displays a neural bond between mom and baby. The baby learns trust through breastfeeding and being with mom. When I teach clients about skin-to-skin, I will now be incorporating more on the baby's brain and how it is affected by the way the mom and partner protect the baby.
Connecting the family as a whole to care for the baby is a major thing that creates trust. It is key that everyone is on the same page… with a baby needing things to go slow as it is in the womb. On their mom, skin-to-skin gives the baby a regulated rhythm and develops the brain. Gives connection by sensation while breastfeeding. They see mum’s eyes, touch her, taste, and so much more helps the baby's IQ.
When I was young, I thought it was weird they wanted to take my baby away from me. While in midwifery school, working internationally I would try my best to keep the baby on mom (or next to mom). Sometimes the hospitals would tell me to do things with the baby away from mom. I would tell them that the mother and the baby are more calm when they are together, so why would I startle the baby or mother? I would always try to teach them babies do best on mom.
The KangaCarrier is essential to help get the baby in the best supportive way for them to be stable and held on mom - and it is like mom is pregnant again. Many benefits are discovered by this type of wrap. The baby’s lungs can develop in the correct way, if the baby is premature and using a mirror when the baby is awake can encourage the brain to wire from seeing the mom’s eye contact.
Early in my midwife education, I studied how primitive cultures were stating the best was skin-to-skin and the number one person for babies was mom. Also, that both a baby and mom could help keep eachother alive in extenuating circumstances. Realizing that this is so much more than just the bond – but a brain and heart response – can help mothers and fathers to understand just how important Kangaroula care is for the development of the baby.
Parents need to be aware and make adjustments. The one thing that may be challenging for mothers would be to not pat, stroke their baby when it is asleep. Also, It will be hard not to swaddle and just lay down their baby. American culture has taught us a way of just doing life with a baby in a room, so we can get stuff done.
My goal is to start advocating more on this topic than I have ever done before. As a parent, I see the mistakes I made and how it is affecting my own children and want more for future families. Trust is the key experience we should create, that the baby needs, to be fully successful. A crying baby from now on will forever break my heart. Before this workshop, and before reading the Hold Your Preemie book, I thought - awe, they are doing the best they can – and now I realize they just don’t know. These parents have just been told what happens is normal. But what is more normal is not what the baby needs! It will be an interesting journey, as a doula, to know when to say something and when not to.
Felicia has extensive background in the US and abroad, as well as working with military families, as a childbirth educator, doula, and assistant midwife. She holds an Interdisciplinary Bachelors of Science in Behavioral Health, Military Counseling, and Bible. She is completing three BWI programs to become certified as a BWI Birth Doula, BWI Postpartum Doula and BWI Childbirth Educator. You can reach her at: email@example.com.