7 Secrets of the Newborn: Secrets and (Happy) Surprises of the First Year

7 Secrets of the Newborn: Secrets and (Happy) Surprises of the First Year

by Robert C. Hamilton, Sally Collings

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250114426
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 09/04/2018
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 122,943
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

ROBERT C. HAMILTON, MD, has been a pediatrician for more than 30 years and is the founding member of Pacific Ocean Pediatrics in Santa Monica, California. In 1998 Dr. Hamilton founded Lighthouse Medical Missions, and has lead 22 medical mission teams to Africa. Dr. Hamilton and his wife Leslie are the proud parents of six children and delighted grandparents of six grandchildren.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The Beginning of It All

Secret #1: You Are About to Fall Desperately in Love

It was one of the oddest prenatal interviews I remember.

On the couch, in my pediatric office, sat an expectant couple who were due to have their first child within the next two months. The smiling mother, Josephine, brimmed with excitement as she shared with me the joy she felt anticipating the birth of their first child.

The father, George, on the other hand, sat on the far end of the couch, away from his wife, looking grumpy. His body language, indifferent attitude, and countenance were the polar opposites of Josephine's.

After I listened to this pregnant woman enthuse about her impending motherhood for a good while, I cautiously turned my attention to George and asked how he felt about becoming a father. His response shocked me. With no shame and without hesitation, he told me that he really wasn't excited at all. In fact, he wondered aloud why he even came to their prenatal interview.

Then he looked at his wife and snarled, "Remember, this was your idea, not mine!"

It was, to say the least, a most uncomfortable moment. Certainly, some men feel exactly the way George did, but rarely do they articulate aloud such candor with a stranger (like me) and with their partner present. I did my best to keep my composure and continued to probe his feelings. He wasn't kidding, and throughout our conversation, he never backed down. This "baby scenario" was never a part of his life plan, and as the day approached for Josephine to deliver, he only became more vociferous and, as in the case of our prenatal conversation, borderline belligerent.

I would later learn that George was one of those unique individuals who never minces words. He said exactly what was on his mind, no filters required, as his thoughts came to him. Despite the momentary discomfort that George provoked in me that day, in a funny way, I appreciated his forthright manner. But what George did not understand at the time of our conversation was this: he was just two months away from running smack-dab into one of the cutest little baby girls this side of heaven, and this little lady was about to melt his cold, barren heart.

And that's exactly what happened!

From the first moment George cuddled his newborn daughter, Rebecca, he utterly changed. Instantaneously, he morphed into the ultimate poster child for doting fathers. George's "born-again" experience transformed him from an indifferent, low-grade-hostile guy who thought he never wanted to have a baby into his daughter's chief cheerleader, a dad who never missed an appointment in my office, and someone who showered me with endless Rebecca stories, photos, and moment-by-moment updates of her developmental prowess.

George's blossoming into enthusiastic parenthood isn't uncommon. Something wonderful happens to moms and dads when they have a baby. Walls, barriers, and fears that some people don't even know exist come tumbling down as a new center of gravity tugs them and guides them into a different orbit. The things that previously were so important or that they thought they could never do without lose their luster in comparison to this new wonder in their lives.

Making the decision to have a child ... it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.

— ELIZABETH STONE, TEACHER, AUTHOR, AND JOURNALIST

Parents Are Made to Love, and Hormones Rule

I have parents who daily come to my office and share with me, without any kind of prompting on my behalf, the intense and unexpected love they feel toward their newborn babies. It's an emotion different from anything they have ever known. They speak of these feelings as if they have been possessed by an alien, an outside force, but it comes from deep within them.

These feelings that new parents sense are indeed profound, but they are not based in nostalgia or random emotions, nor are they magic. They're a derivative of hidden physiological changes that occur within our human frame.

For moms, these feelings are a result of hormones — those amazing chemical messengers produced by small glands residing in the human brain. Hormones are proteins that, after being secreted in the postpartum mother, race through her bloodstream, alter her physiology, cause actual physical, structural changes in her brain, and make the experience of being a mother wonderfully desirable and highly pleasurable.

Prolactin is one of these mommy hormones that is manufactured in the brain's pituitary gland. It induces a mother's breast tissues to start milk production after her baby is born. Secondarily, as a bonus side effect, prolactin relaxes a mother and promotes a sense of peace and somnolence when she breastfeeds her baby.

Oxytocin is another of these postpartum hormones that activates several events in the new mother. It too is made in the mother's pituitary gland.

The first action oxytocin has is to trigger the letdown of a mother's milk. When an infant begins to suckle its mother's breast, oxytocin is released. After it is secreted from the brain, it travels to a mother's breast tissues and causes the ductules inside to contract and release her stored milk to her baby.

Second, oxytocin causes the enlarged, postdelivery uterus to contract down to its pre-pregnancy size and thereby reduces the uterine blood loss in postpartum mothers. Mothers feel the effect of oxytocin on the uterine muscles as "good" contractions, not unlike the contractions she felt during labor but with much less intensity. These postpartum uterine constrictions, occurring whenever a mother breastfeeds her baby in the early days after delivery, are called afterpains, which serve to heal and restore the mother's uterus.

Finally, oxytocin, like prolactin, has antianxiety, relaxing properties that promote a sense of well-being, safety, and security in mothers. The higher the oxytocin levels, the more pleasure a mother senses. As well as being released when her breasts are suckled, oxytocin even surges when a mother lightly strokes her baby, kisses him or holds him to her chest ... all of which fill a mother — and baby too — with a sense of happiness and contentment.

Babies Are Born to Be Loved and to Trust

It goes without saying that human infants are totally helpless when they are born. And like their parents, who are falling desperately in love with them, newborn infants reciprocate by falling impossibly in love with their parents. It's almost as if a baby looks up into the eyes of his mom and dad and whispers, "Let's be partners in this process. I will trust you completely, and we will do this dyad thing together."

Babies are helped in this endeavor by biological forces too. Like their mothers, who are experiencing a flurry of hormonal changes that have caused their breasts to enlarge, their pelvises to relax, and more fat to be stored in their livers, babies are likewise being physiologically prepped for a strong and lasting relationship with their mothers.

Ready and Alert

It begins at birth. Babies are born in a state of heightened alertness, which physicians call the ready-alert phase. Birth is clearly a highly stressful experience for a woman, but baby doesn't get a free pass either. For babies, birth represents the most significant physiologic challenge they encounter and which they must overcome after the short 266 days since their conception.

In babies, the stress of delivery induces the release of two more hormones called adrenaline and noradrenaline, commonly known as the stress or fight-or-flight hormones. With these hormones circulating in the newborn blood, when they're born, babies enter the world on a true adrenaline rush.

This hyperalert state lasts for a few hours. With wide-open eyes and dilated pupils, newborn babies stare around the delivery room, look at their mothers, and gaze into the bright overhead lights. I'd love to know what they are thinking during these early minutes after they are born. To me, it appears as if they are wondering what just happened to them and where all these strangers came from.

Like the newborn wildebeest struggling to its feet after being born on the plains of the Serengeti, human newborns, in their own way, look around and struggle to understand and behold the world they have been born into. For them, it's a new universe they heard echoes of while in the womb.

After their delivery, this new world greets them with a sensory jolt; from the noises and chill of the delivery suite, to the touch of a warm blanket, to the soft caress of their mothers, and finally, to the reassuring coos of their astonished fathers.

Moms too are in a state of hyperawareness, as every mother who has gone through the ordeal of delivering a baby will testify. When her child is finally placed on her chest, it's one of the most glorious scenes imaginable. For months, she has experienced the curious joy of a little person punching and kicking inside her womb. Finally, after the intensity of labor and delivery, she gets to meet her little swimmer.

I have witnessed this event between newborns and their mommies hundreds of times, and it's the most powerful, touching, and feminine of moments I can think of. It's also the encounter that begins one of the most important relationships an individual will ever know.

Looking for Faces

In addition to being awake and alert, babies are born innately wired to look for faces. Multiple studies have shown that babies, in fact, crave faces over all other objects. It is written in our DNA. When babies find their mothers' and fathers' loving and joyous faces, the process of bonding begins.

Hearing It All

In addition to being born with eyes wide open, babies are also born with highly developed, exceptional hearing abilities and are thus able to recognize and turn toward unique voices. They attend to and recognize especially the higher-pitched voice of their mothers, which they have heard throughout gestation.

Skin to Skin

Babies are born with a highly mature sense of touch. When the harrowing process of labor and delivery is over, a mother has a desperate desire to hold and touch her baby. As nature would have it, babies are also in need of their mothers' touch and love to be cuddled.

Researchers have demonstrated that frequent and long periods of skin-to-skin contact between mother and child induce a strong bond between them. These studies further show that mothers who have extended skin-to-skin interaction with their babies in the first hours and days of life also end up breastfeeding their children for longer periods. The positive benefits of early skin-to-skin contact have been repeatedly confirmed and now has become standard practice in hospitals throughout the United States.

Bonding

Bonding is the glue that creates an insoluble covenant between mothers, fathers, and their new babies. Researcher Ruth Feldman has written, "Bonding is the central process that supports human adaption [and that] provides a foundation for neurobehavioral maturation." The moments after birth provide the perfect environment for the process of bonding to occur.

For mothers, the preparation for bonding began during pregnancy. Hormones, at work in the mother from the moment of conception, are preparing her physically and mentally for the task she will soon take on. Structural changes — actual physical changes in the brain — are occurring that literally make her into a different person. Pregnancy tinkers with the mother's brain and releases, as writer Adrienne LaFrance puts it, "a flood of hormones [that] help attract a new mother to her baby."

Mothers are further prodded along the bonding road by physiological and maturational events occurring in her baby, which also enhance bonding. Visually, newborns are nearsighted, which means they see clearly those things that are close by. Their focal length (the length they can see objects clearly) is between eight and twelve inches. This is the exact distance between a mother's breast and her face. This is not a coincidence. As we have seen earlier, newborns prefer to look at faces more than anything else. The first face that a baby finds after birth and being placed at the breast is the loving face of her mother. Immediately, from the first moments after birth, the bond between baby and mother starts to blossom.

Ready-alert babies, born with eyes open and dilated pupils, find their parents in a surreal and magical moment. It's a collision of lives that is eternal. Moms and dads, who are likewise on epic, hormone-driven emotion highs, succumb to this jubilant occasion and fall insanely and utterly in love with their new baby. Thus hooked, they happily assume the new role into which they have been cast: new parents!

A note of clarity needs to be offered here. Bonding is one of those surprises in life that occurs on its own schedule. The immediacy of bonding portrayed above isn't fiction. It frequently happens exactly as I have written, but not always. Not every mother or father falls head over heels in love with their baby the moment she is born.

For some new parents, bonding grows over time. Medical emergencies, like unexpected admissions to the NICU, can interrupt a mother's intimacy with her baby during the first minutes and hours of life and cut in on early bonding. Other women experience such discomfort after their deliveries that it is impossible to focus on anyone or anything other than what they so intensely feel. Other women, prescribed pain-relieving medications to soften postpartum pain, also find that the intensity of the early moments with their child is blurred.

But parents are not to worry. These unexpected bumps in the road after birth don't mean that bonding will not occur. The process is simply delayed but is equally intense when it happens.

Parent-child bonding plays an important role in the continuance of the human species because it is difficult to raise a child to maturity. An unshakable, intense, and solid commitment is required to complete the job. Fortunately, this impulse is locked within our humanness and comes out of nowhere when we need it. For women, bonding is a rich and wonderful facet of their femininity and their maternal biology.

For men, things are more complex. Bonding in men is equally intense, but it's different. My observation about men and babies is this. Most guys — and I am one of these people — didn't spend a lot of time thinking about children when they were young boys, teenagers, or young men. (Sorry, ladies, but we just didn't.) This is an observation I find almost universally true.

But when men become daddies, the lights go on and things change. Men become awakened to the world of children. I am a witness to these transformations that occur in men, like our friend George, each day in my office, and this is one of the many reasons I find practicing pediatrics so gratifying.

Preparing for Breastfeeding

Inherent in the early trust a child places in her mommy and daddy is the confidence that she will be protected and cared for. Breastfeeding is a continuation of what an infant already knows: a mother's body is the source of all things good!

From a nutritional and physiological perspective, a mother's breasts replace the mother's placenta. So for a baby to survive, both mommies and babies must adjust to this new outside-the-womb paradigm for nourishment. This means they together need to learn a new skill: breastfeeding.

During pregnancy, a mother's breasts, under the influence of both estrogen and progesterone, are being prepared to nourish her baby. Estrogen and progesterone prompt the breasts to grow fuller and cause the areolae (the pigmented area around the nipples) to enlarge and become darker. Finally, the surrounding oil glands of the areolae (called Montgomery glands) enlarge and mature under their influence.

Estrogen and Progesterone Are Inhibitors of Prolactin

Although prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production, increases during pregnancy, the high levels of the inhibiting hormones (estrogen and progesterone) prevent milk production from occurring. So while, on one hand, estrogen and progesterone prepare the breasts for action, they also, on the other hand, prevent milk production by inhibiting the milk-producing hormone prolactin until the child has been delivered. Since estrogen and progesterone are produced during pregnancy by the placenta, when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall and passes during the final stage of childbirth, the organ that has been producing estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy is gone, and the levels of these placental hormones in the mother's blood plunge.

This exceedingly precise and choreographed hormonal dance then allows prolactin (until now impeded by these inhibiting hormones) to be fully released and stimulate the breasts to start milk production. Once things are turned on and milk production is under way, milk production continues so long as the child suckles and empties the breasts. The more an infant suckles, the more milk is made.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "7 Secrets of the Newborn"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Robert C. Hamilton, M.D..
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Frontispiece,
Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Foreword by Patricia Heaton,
Introduction,
1. The Beginning of It All,
2. It All Begins in the Womb,
3. The First Month of Life,
4. Start Fresh — Live "Off the Grid" and Avoid All the Stuff ... At Least for the First Month,
5. Handcrafted Babies,
6. Four Cornerstones of the First Year,
7. The Wonders of the First (Maniacal) Year,
8. Establishing Healthy Patterns in the First Year,
9. Embrace the Mundane — Have Fun with Your Baby and Enliven Your Child's,
10. The Two-Parent Team,
11. Oh, the Places You'll Go, Where Your Children Take You,
12. Resist the Allure of Screen Time,
13. Travel Far and Wide,
14. Embrace Your Tribe,
15. Relax, Retreat, and Reenergize,
Epilogue: The Blessing of Children,
For Further Reading,
Acknowledgments,
Index,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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