Mammalian biology suggests that frequent feedings and continuous contact are normal and instinctive behavior for human babies. If kept skin to skin with mother after birth, healthy newborns instinctively will move towards the mothers breast and breast feed. After birth, healthy newborns follow a predictable series of behaviors that move them to the breast, stimulate oxytocin release in the mother and lead to breast feeding, usually about an hour after birth. If the mother receives certain pain medications during labor or mother and baby are separated before the first breast feeding, these instinctive behaviors are temporarily suppressed. If human infants are separated from their mothers during the entire newborn period, they are at risk for unstable body functions and feeding problems. Human newborns separated from their mother exhibit the “protest despair” response which also occurs in other mammals. The protest despair response is a certain cry the baby uses that is distinctive and unique. ”Separation distress” cries to alert the mother of his or her need to be reunited and feed. If the cry is not answered, it has shown that levels of stress hormones rise in the newborn baby and body functions such as temperature, blood sugar, breathing and heart rate become unstable. If the cry is not responded to, the newborns actual physiology changes to “despair mode,” slowing digestion and growth to increase odds of survival. After birth, continuous contact between mother and baby has been associated with fewer feeding problems, less crying, and more stable body functions.
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