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The Bond that is made by the First Touches of Mother and Child- Part 2

Remembering the experience in the womb

Many pediatricians have thought about the importance of the touch between mother and child as a key factor in establishing the bond between mother and child. In Japan, we call this "skinship". For the mother and child to begin building a bond with each other, and to begin establishing a human relationship, having a rich "skinship" type of relationship is very important.

However, as the standard of living rose, medicine also made advances. Correspondingly, in the countries where medicine had become socialized, especially in the industrialized countries, many aspects of medicine made progressive changes, such as home deliveries changing to hospital deliveries, and as a result, there was a decrease in the opportunities for mother and child to make contact.

On many occasions, the mother and child were separated at birth due to the mother being anesthetized and having little consciousness after the delivery. This resulted in the mother staying in the delivery room, while the baby was taken to the nursery. In fact, the only times the mother and child were together were when the mother would breastfeed her baby, and they would test their love and bonding in a "restrictive manner". However, recently, the value of "skinship" has been re-evaluated and now there is an effort made to unite the mother and child as soon after delivery as possible.

For the newborn just entering the new world, the new environment is full of overwhelming stimuli, compared to the safe dark warmth of the womb. Whether the baby likes this stimulation or not, this stimulation will slowly awaken his/her senses. This provokes anxiety and fear in the newborn, which is manifested by the baby crying out. The baby is then soothed and reassured by the warm embrace of the mother. Thus, the crying baby will stop crying when picked up and hugged by the mother.

When the mother sweeps up her baby in both arms, the newborn is able to hear the slight beating of the mother's heart and her soft voice, eliminating all anxiety and fear that the newborn may be experiencing. This reminds the newborn of the experience in the womb. This repetition will slowly build the mother-child bond that is so important.

It is conceivable that the sense of touch that the fetus experiences inside the womb, each time he or she touches the uterine lining, is something that is imprinted before birth. Each time the mother and child exchange their touch, it reminds the newborn of those first contacts with the mother in the uterus, and strengthens the impact of "skinship".

In this way, the newborn is able to feel soothed and reassured through the imprinting that began in the womb. The baby is then able to feel as though he or she is being protected by the mother, through her loving touch.

The Meaning of the Piggyback Ride

In order to establish this mother-child bond, there is a critical period. This is the period that should be called something like an "induction period", in which during this time, the mother and child will exchange their touch intimately, as well as the exchange of eye contact, love and some sort of communication that ultimately comes with this touch. When this exchange is absent, the mother and child may in some cases, not be able to establish that bond.

As a result, the mother is sometimes said not to be able to breastfeed or even to raise the baby. This period is believed to be one to two weeks post partum.

In the United States and Europe, the methods of hospital delivery have come under review and thus, more than 10 years ago, there came about the practice of having mother rooming with the newborn or of the hospital encouraging both the mother and father to visit the nursery.

Furthermore, in Northern Europe, the mother has been able to enter the preemie ward for more than ten years. The hospital encourages the mother to touch the little baby even in the plastic incubator as soon and as much as possible. It is a beautiful sight to see a young mother seriously and carefully touching and soothing her baby with her hands through those small holes in the incubator.

When we observe the mother-child relationship in this light, we can begin to understand that there is a meaning to the tradition of piggybacking our babies in Japan. Even if the clothes come between the mother and child, there is certainly a strong and wide area of contact for the baby and mother while piggybacking.

Human beings, who have so much culture behind them, have various kinds of human relations. These human relations consist of friendships, teacher and pupil relationships, workplace relationships, marriages and others. Among all of these relationships, the most valuable and special relationship is the very first relationship between the mother and child. This relationship has an enormous impact on the future of the child. Thus, we can see how valuable it is to have the very sensitive touch that is to become the essence and the beginning of human relationships.

Kobayashi, Noboru (1981). "Hada kara hajimaru haha to ko no kizuna - 2"(written in Japanese). Tokyo: Child Research Net. Retrieved May 1, 2002, from the World Wide Web:
http://www.crn.or.jp/LIBRARY/KOBY/MIRAI/cbs0091.html
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