“Birds do it, bees do it, Even educated fleas do it, Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.” It’s Valentine’s Day, and the drive to love — and all the hugging, holding, and kissing that goes with it– is instinctive. It’s like breathing: primary, involuntary, and life-giving. We don’t need science to tell us the benefits of love and loving touch – once we experience the magic of love we forever believe in it’s positive effects and we wouldn’t dream of deleting it from the equation of human experience. And we don’t need science to help us do it. Actually, we sometimes need science to take a back-seat to our instincts and just give them the space to do what they do. Nowhere is this more true than during that pivotal first first hour of a newborn’s life when the magic of love begins to unfold and the blueprint for trust, security and relationships is created.
The Magical Hour is a new documentary that all expecting and new parents, all providers, — really, everyone should see. It touches on one of the lesser-known booby traps parents encounter — being robbed of the opportunity to experience the miracle that happens when healthy babies are given immediate skin-to-skin time on mom’s tummy for at least an hour post-birth, and of the physical and emotional health effects for both mother and baby that having that time brings. Dr. Kajsa Brymdr, the video’s author, ethnographer, and international expert, and colleagues Drs. Ann-Marie Widstrom and Lars Ake Hanson can prove it to you. In this video, they reveal how ALL healthy brand-new babies will take an active role in transitioning themselves from womb to life-outside-the-womb by journeying through 9 predictable behaviors –each meeting a vital need including security, comfort, warmth, touch, familiar sounds, trusting, exploring, learning, and eventually suckling. An exquisite and instinctive dance between mother and baby unfolds. That hour awakens in moms their own instincts, prompts a “knowing” that they already have all it takes to mother brilliantly, gives newborns a baseline of emotional and physical security and begins their early learning aptitudes. Dr. Brimdyr’s research shows that mother-baby pairs who are given this magical hour become moms who feel more attentive and confident, and babies who are better self-regulators at ONE year, whether they continue breastfeeding or not! Wow! This short but powerful interlude has the potential to stymie skyrocketing postpartum depression rates, facilitate trouble-free breastfeeding, and provide babies with a really healthy start! Sign me up!
How so? In a wonderful article for Birth Unlimited, we read that mammalian mothers, when given the proper time and space to do so, engage in nuzzling, kissing and caressing behaviors (for animals, it also involves a good bit of licking.) These instinctive mothering behaviors “expose the five senses to the young so that she knows the taste, smell, feel, sound and sight of her new baby. In this way, a mother claims her child as her own.” These are the behaviors that attach mother to baby, whether she is breastfeeding or not, and breastfeeding just deepens and enhances that bond. “It is not unusual to find that women who are deprived of the privacy required to create this immediate bonding right after birth often say they feel a distance between them and their baby.” Indeed. We suspect that one of the causes of epidemic postpartum depression rates is that moms and babies are being robbed of the opportunity to “claim” each other and forge a natural bond. Although bonding still takes place later, one wonders if it is as deep and protective. Hospitals that routinely separate mother and baby immediately after birth, and return babies to their mothers cleaned and wrapped up like a Christmas present over an hour later, are doing moms and babies no favor. Parents in the video who stood their ground and experienced this magical hour talk about the miraculous the exchange between mother and baby, and as one interviewed mom put it “it’s time you can never get back.”
Though self-attachment and suckling at the breast is the last step in this beautifully orchestrated dance, and proponents will tell you it definitely helps breastfeeding get off to a great start, the Magical Hour goes far beyond that. The transition period is is is a crucial time of falling-in-love both for new parents and for their baby— moments to be relished and which should not be rushed or missed. Being shown the amazing ways that you and your baby fit together is empowering and affirming that you are on the right track. As one of the video’s participants said “No one is asking anyone to do anything.” No need to. Babies know exactly what they need. This research puts the icing on that cake. What we need is to stop preventing mothers and babies from doing what instinct compels them to do. So, we say it again, with love: You are the Miracle. Your Baby is the Miracle. Ask for your Magical Hour and let your love drive. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Did you get your Magical Hour?