Nino Overview

Mum supported by a doula

NINO uses the latest neuroscience research to show that our basic biology works best for mother and baby at birth.

NINO stands for    Neuroscience for Improved Neonatal Outcomes.

NINO strives to improve the birth experience for the mother, but even more specifically for the baby, focussing on the brain of the baby.



Baby in skin-to-skin contact on mum directly after birth

The key that unlocks the Neuroscience of NINO … is direct skin-to-skin contact, starting at birth, between mother and baby. The details of this can be seen on our Kangaroo Mother Care website, and the scientific explanation can be found on our Skin-to-Skin Contact website.

In short: sensory signals between mothers’ and babies’ skins trigger the healthy behaviours that lead to Improved Neonatal Outcomes (NINO). Nerve pathways are fired in the best ways, and hormones are produced that keep these healthy and balanced.


Baby’s first “Golden Hour” should not be disturbed

The baby’s first hour of life on mum’s chest should not be disturbed. In the normal birth without complications, there is NOTHING that has to be done during this time: all nursing and hospital routines can wait. This is also called a “critical period”, meaning that critical and essential things are happening during this time, and if they are disturbed there may be failures of best outcomes. If nerve pathways are not fired, they do not wire. The mother-infant BONDING may be not begood.

I learnt trust on my mother’s breasts

Psalm 22 v 9

This is not religion or poetry: it is authentic neuroscience. The first and most important neural pathway that fires at birth is one connecting the baby’s emotional brain to its social brain. The first eye to eye contact is the experience that rewards the mother for her labour … but it is the basic brain circuit for BONDING.



 Baby starts to breastfeed (not mum!)

The baby shows a very specific behaviour during this time: and, without help,willlatch on to the mother’s breast and suckle. There is no milk in the breasts at this time, but there is colostrumwhich is vital for immune protection. The more important thing is that the baby is sending sensory signals to the mother’s brain. These signals fire and wire new pathways that pregnancy hormones have made possible, but they are fired by the baby … see more under “ferocity”. It is the BABY suckling on the breast that is preparing his next meal of breastmilk


Baby stays with mum  for the “first 1000 minutes

Hospitals that are up to date with best practice and evidence-based medicine will strive to keep mother and baby together for the first hour. The new knowledge from NINO is that the first hour is only the first hour: the first 1000 minutes is the important time to keep uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact and togetherness. A 1000 minutes is over 16 hours, practically speaking the first day and night. “Zero separation” time can be achieved with the help of father or any other family member, but mainly to support the mother to be able to spend as much time as possible with baby. In this way they can synchronise their wake-sleep time, they can learn each other’s body language. The newly fired pathways in both their brains become stronger and coordinated: this is what bonding is actually about.

Footnote:  in current political agenda’s for child health, the term currently used is the “first 1000 days”. USA Secretary of State Hilary Clinton first coined this term: the days of a normal pregnancy plus the first two years of life happen to add up to a 1000!        (270 + 365 + 365 = 1000)
So here we take this to the proper start – the first 1000 minutes must come first!


Mum becomes brain wired for “ferocity” (!)

Why “ferocity”?

In the animal kingdom, the standard measure of a good mother is “ferocity of defence of young”. Interestingly, this “ferocity” is actually an effect of very high levels of oxytocin, the love hormone! Oxytocin inhibits  the“fear centre” in the mother’s brain, making her prepared to defend her offspring no matter what. It is during labour and during the suckling from the baby in the first 1000 minutes that this ferocity is wired.

We can call it empowerment. Mother’s need this empowering. But many of our hospitals act as if mother is a “patient” who needs rest, and they “kindly” take the baby away so she can sleep during this time. NINO tells us that this is a major disservice. Mother’s do not need to rest after the birth, they need to hold and feed their babies.


This good birth makes BONDING, which means mum is sensitive

The mother who does not have her baby with her during this time, loses out on the opportunity to watch and learn the baby’s body language and communication signals. She can be an excellent mother, providing first class good care, but it may not be tuned or synchronised with what care the baby actually wants at any point in time. We refer to this as “maternal sensitivity”, and it is wired into the mother’s brain in the first 1000 minutes.

When mother is sensitive to baby’s messages and responds gently, the baby learns mother’s messages too. Their backwards and forwards interaction is the substance of the on-going bonding. This interaction includes the many small and repeated “mistakes” of understanding, each worked through and forgiven, the relationship moving on. Over time this leads to what we call a “secure attachment”, which is the basic platform for future well-being over the life span. This well-being spans the biological and physical, through to emotional and social development.