Womb to world – the secrets of your baby’s new life will open up a whole new way of caring for your baby with calm, confidence and a knowing that is (understandably) lacking in most new parents.
The nine months in utero is a period of preparation for you and your new baby. During this time, you will ponder and day dream about your new baby and imagine the type of mom you will be. This time gives you the space to get ready to parent your little one.
At same time, your tiny baby grows and develops and begins the journey to becoming the person they will be. Pregnancy and time in the womb is the best preparation for you and your baby. But as your baby lies in your arms minutes after birth, the realisation will dawn on you that all that time in the womb was really only the start. The real journey begins as your baby emerges from womb to world.
The perfect state to meet mom and dad
Immediately after birth you will find your baby is very alert and attentive to you. There is a good reason for this. In the last few weeks in utero your baby is contained in a very tight space with deep pressure from the womb walls. In addition during birth your baby moves down a very narrow canal. All this deep pressure touch (from the womb walls and the birth canal) is very soothing for your baby, like a deep massage, and is the reason for the calm alert state.
In addition, during the birth process, your baby’s brain releases stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that are needed at the time of birth and just after. The combination of the stress hormones and the deep pressure put your baby in to an alert but calm state for the first few hours after birth. This state prepares your baby for bonding in the early hours and days.
Making eye contact
Until only a few decades ago, people believed babies were blind at birth, like newborn puppies. We now know that not only is this untrue. Babies can actually see in full colour and with perfect focus at a distance of 20cm. Any closer or further and your baby will lose focus.
Even more amazing is that 20cm is the distance from your eyes to your nipple so as your baby lies at your breast; they can focus on your face. It’s one of the ways babies are wired to bond with their mother. Within minutes of birth, your baby’s eyes will move around the room in tiny movements we call saccades. They will continue to do this until their eyes lock in on yours.
In this alert state, your baby will make eye contact with you, look at your face intently and even mimic your mouth movements! This precious state provides a wonderful time to meet and engage with your baby. Turn down the lights as soon as your baby is born so that they’re not startled or overstimulated by the bright lights but can find your face and focus on you.
Prepared to feed
Your miracle baby will not cease to amaze you. Within an hour of birth a baby placed on their mother’s chest can find their way to the breast and begin to feed with almost no assistance! There are three critical reflexes that prepare your baby to do this:
Firstly, when placed on their tummy on your chest, your newborn can coordinate little creeping movements that will bring them to their food source. In fact, babies can identify where your milk is just by smell.
Newborns who are presented with two cotton wool swabs, one with his own mother’s milk expressed on to it and another with another mother’s milk will turn towards the smell of their own mom’s milk.
Once your baby finds your nipple, or is brought to the breast, the rooting reflex will help them orient to take your nipple into their mouth. The rooting reflex helps your baby to turn towards touch on the cheek. Then it’s the sucking reflex that helps your baby get feeding right.
I hear your voice
By 16 weeks in utero, your baby hears and responds to sounds. Of course the sound they know best is the sound of your voice, which they hear often and clearly during pregnancy.
Incredibly, within minutes of birth your baby will turn to your voice. They recognise your voice and even can hear the difference between the language you speak and another. Right from birth your baby’s brain is wired to understand language and to respond to their mother tongue.
Hold me, touch me
Coming from the soothing sensory space of the womb, where your baby has had skin to skin touch for 9 long months (their skin against your uterus walls), they will crave your touch. Skin to skin care, which involves placing your naked baby (with only a nappy) on your naked chest and covering you both with a blanket is a wonderful way to ease your baby from womb to world. Full term and prem babies do well with skin to skin care and your chest will act as a natural incubator to warm your baby up.
Even babies delivered by caesarian section can be nurtured on mum’s chest immediately after birth, unless they are very fragile or medically ill.
Time to sleep
Immediately after birth you will be on such a high and your baby will be in the calm alert state. This is the perfect time to begin the bonding process. However, after a period of engaging, you and your baby will be overcome with exhaustion. You will both do well to drop off to sleep.
Your baby can sleep on you or in a crib right next to your bed. Research has shown that babies who room in with their mums in the first three days, breastfeed for a longer time in the first year of life.
If you are exhausted and have had a tough time and need to sleep without your baby in the same room, request that they are brought to you to feed as soon as they cry.
Getting to know your baby
Your baby is a miracle, they come equipped on a sensory level to bond, learn and interact with you. But that does not mean this period of ‘womb to world’ is a breeze. In utero your baby had all their needs met constantly without ever having to communicate their needs.
Although your baby does have a language of their own from the early days, they may battle to interpret their internal sensory input. That means that you may take time to learn your baby’s unique signals. Slow down and look out for their signals from early on.
The first 24 hours and the weeks that follow are an amazing journey of getting to know your baby. From their sight, hearing and early reflexes to their brain connections, your baby is wired to bond with you as a social being. Take the time to engage with your baby and embark on the most special relationship of your life.
Make the most of your baby’s first precious year. Download Parent Sense to take the guesswork out of parenting and allow you to cherish every precious moment with your little one.