SSC is normal

Skin-to-skin contact is NORMAL – understanding our cultural paradigm

In our western culture we separate mothers and babies; SEPARATION is highly ABNORMAL to baby’s biology, genes and brain.

Our western culture routinely separates mothers and babies. Many reasons are given, there is no evidence for a single one. (Impact of Birthing Practices on Brastfeeding by Linda Smith)

Biologically, the evidence is solid that maternal infant separation is a severe stressor, and causes harm to the developing brain. This has been confirmed in many species, and specifically in non-human primates, whose brains are in many respects similar to ours. My own research is aimed at establishing that perhaps there is harm also in human infants, if we know how and where to look for it.

From a biological point of view therefore, separation of human babies from their mothers is highly abnormal, and indeed quite bizarre. As far as our DNA and our neurons are concerned, mother’s body is the NORMAL PLACE.

Susan Ludington tells me that by end of 2011, there had been over 350 publications on skin-to-skin contact, or KC or KMC. The great majority of these conclude that SSC is better than other forms of care involving separation.

Using scientific logic, rather than popular cultural belief, the conclusions of all those articles are incorrect!  Scientifically and statistically, we compare any new intervention to the NORMAL. The NORMAL – as defined biologically by our DNA and by our neurons and by our brains and bodies – is mother’s body, skin-to-skin contact. This matters greatly, because now when we compare any other form of care to what is normal, the conclusion is not that SSC is better, but that other forms of care are worse. And there is no doubt that infants cared for by separation are worse, and that those not breastfed are worse off.  But describing SSC outcomes as better in a subtle way maintains the assumption that separation is normal. It is not.

It has been suggested that incubator care and infant formula is the greatest single uncontrolled experiment ever conducted. Perhaps in a hundred years this experiment will be concluded, and future generations will be aghast and horrified at their barbaric and unethical ancestors.

NEXT: SSC versus separation

“Getting rid of a delusion makes us wiser than getting hold of a truth”
— Ludwig Borne

Paradigm images

We often have preconceived ideas about what we see. I like to use the image below to illustrate this… I will start by telling you that it is a picture of Bacchus, in ancient Roman times the god of wine. He has a beard and vine leaves in his hair.

However, if you look more carefully, you will see that it is something else. The vine leaves are real ones, part of a bower of leaves in the garden, and under the bower is a young couple embracing and kissing each other. The beard of Bacchus is actually their clothing.

“Haahh”, you might eventually say when you see this!

This optical illusion is however exactly what I hope you will experience as you discover more about SKIN-TO-SKIN CONTACT.

The incubator and the technological NICU without parents is the old Bacchus, the old way of seeing things. It seemed good, and there was no other way of seeing it. But through the lens of modern neuroscience and new clinical evidence, the same thing looks very different. The human baby is not at all what we thought! There is a developing brain there that is responsive to the environment, but only the right environment, meaning mother!

Another go! Below are two pictures, one of a beautiful horse, and one of an ugly frog.


If you look more carefully, you will see that it is the identical picture, only viewed from a different angle.

What we see happening to small babies in NICUs and Delivery Wards looks very different when viewed from the angle of modern neursocience.The perspective matters. And so it does matter which is normal, and which is worse than normal. Even if you love frogs more than ugly horses – your perception of beauty and normality is still relative.

With respect to optimal developmental outcome, the “normal” perspective is maternal-infant SKIN-TO-SKIN CONTACT.

NEXT: SSC versus separation