I’ve worked as a lactation consultant in both a hospital setting as well as an out-patient setting such as the BRC. Part of the role of an IBCLC in a hospital setting is to educate staff about practices that negatively influence breastfeeding. Decreasing mother-baby separation and increasing the practice of skin to skin (S2S) contact after delivery are two steps most IBCLCs find extremely important for bonding, better breastfeeding, and the baby’s health. Most of the advantages have been researched by Nils Bergman, MD, PhD. I found it interesting when I discovered new research in Biological Psychiatry that stressed the importance of keeping moms and babies together after delivery as well as practicing S2S. What I found most interesting was that the author of the study stated that we are the only mammals who practice separation after delivery. He was amazed by this practice as it is only done in animal research if the investigators want to create stress for the mother or baby to show the damaging effects on the developing mammalian brain.
Researchers measured heart rate variability in 2-day-old sleeping babies for one hour when they had skin-to-skin contact with the mother and then again when they were sleeping alone in a cot next to their mother’s bed. They found that the infant’s neonatal autonomic activity (automatic activities such as breathing, heart rate etc.) was 176 percent higher and quiet sleep 86 percent lower during maternal separation compared with skin-to-skin contact. So, while separation may be necessary in rare medical situations, let’s work hard to keep moms and babies together where they belong!