Doctors Deliver Babies But Shouldn’t

cannot take credit for this chapter’s title. It was coined in the 2nd half of the 20th century in England, and
later quoted in Maternal Bonding, by Dr. Wladyslaw Sluckin of Oxford,
U.K., in 1983. He writes: “The basic pattern of social behavior in human babies
lies in maternal-infant attachment. She has carried her child in her womb for
about 266 1/2 days, which is actually the average from conception to birth, not
delivery. Babies get themselves naturally born in most cases, and that child is
looking forward to a continuation of the life that it had in the womb. The
temperature and pressure are constant, no work is required, and he or she is
looking forward to a continuation of this. What they are looking forward to is
a “womb with a view.” Image result for doctors delivering babiesBut they are expelled rather roughly and
usually taken away from their mother, which is wrong. It’s physiologically and
psychologically wrong. Both baby and mother need each other more at this time
than they ever will again. The baby should be put to nurse at his mother’s
breast whereupon it induces an enormous number of wonderful changes in the
mother, such as an arresting of postpartum hemorrhage, which no
obstetrician can do under the circumstances, but a baby can do. Which indicates
that there is more intelligence in the upper and the lower lip of one baby than
all the brains of all the obstetricians put together.”
I am adding this
chapter here for doulas, because you will need to educate yourself about the
many cultures surrounding birth both in the U.S. and abroad. Your clients will
be as diverse as the societies and families they come from. We need to
understand and respect every opinion and lifestyle we encounter. Our job is not
to correct misinformation or bring women around to our ways of thinking. Yes,
we can educate and inform them, but we are not here to judge, and the more we
learn about what others are thinking and the trends out there, both in
conventional medicine and alternatives, the more open we can be. The process
never ends, as I have learned in my 60s.
Happily, many
medical schools and physicians since Dr. Sluckin’s time have re-considered our
modern approach to birth and are very concerned about how we bring babies into
the world. Since his book, we also know that bonding is reciprocal, that babies also initiate cues, though this
idea has not been accepted yet even today by all researchers, scientists, and
medical professionals.
We now have
birthing rooms at most hospitals and rooming-in options. Many doctors have
since educated themselves and encourage exclusive breastfeeding. Home birth is
on the rise in many countries, the U.S. not
being one of them, though. Many studies have been done and are continuing to
prove the effectiveness, if not cost saving benefits of change, and the
increase in patient satisfaction. But above and beyond hospital cost
considerations and patient ratings, what can we learn from the past about what
is best for your baby?
We have seen over
past centuries how the pendulum of thinking dictates what we do or don’t do, or
do for a few years and then deliberately don’t do, often to the detriment of
our children. Here is but one example of this: For centuries cradles were used
to calm babies to sleep. All of a sudden, about a hundred years ago, a
physician warned parents of all sorts of overly indulgent behaviors, in particular
that cradles were a ‘crutch’ that they would never be able to wean their
children of–have you ever seen a six-foot long cradle in a college dorm?–and
that they must train their children to sleep without it, even if that means a
period of adaptation from being comforted to sleep, to sleeping alone and that
only ‘soft’ parents would not allow babies to cry themselves to sleep during
this period. Well, many parents bought this theory, threw out their cradles and
thought themselves better parents for having trusted an “expert.”
must test these theories and decide for ourselves what will work best for my
baby, not what “they” say is best for all the other babies in the world.
Only then will we collectively see what is good for babies. And then we can initiate
change that is solid, now called “best practice.” In turn it will attract the
attention of doctors and hospitals and educators and much of the mainstream
whom I must believe also want the best for their babies, too. It takes time,
often years or decades, but it does happen. Thirty years ago I had to fight to
have my twins born naturally. I had to defend myself against society for
nursing both of them without supplements. Then I had to explain why I thought I
could nurse them into their third year. (I also found myself guarding our
bedroom like a mama tiger lest people realize we didn’t have any cribs.) Later I found myself defending our
choice to home school. This idea of following our instincts is further
complicated by our society’s eagerness to blame: later problems are blamed on
extended nursing, or child-led weaning, or bad mothering (or fathering) in
general. (See “Bad” Mothers: the politics of blame in
twentieth-century America , Ladd-Taylor, Molly and Umansky, Lauri, New York
University Press, 1998, chapter 11, essay by Jane Taylor).
“This wouldn’t
have happened if you hadn’t let him sleep with you… you should never have
started….” Or, “You are starving that baby…” or, “You are spoiling her…it’s
good for their lungs to let them cry.”
Actually, what you
are teaching your baby when you let him cry and don’t pick him up, is to cry more. And that they cannot trust you. Babies are not born with our
level of reasoning, though we act as if they were. None of my babies, at least,
could reason like this: “Let me see now, if I am dry and fed and had my nap,
let’s see what would happen if I cry and if anyone will spoil me and pick me
up.” A baby cries for a reason. These are some of them: he is hungry, he wants
skin contact, he wants affection, he needs reassuring, he is cold, he is too
hot, he has a burb, or something hurts. These are all valid needs. And he is definitely not figuring
out how to manipulate us. We project our ideas on our children much too early.
Our instincts should tell us this, but if your mother or mother-in-law or
someone else who has in turn been warned not to follow their instincts tells us to, “be
careful you don’t spoil him…” we are simply perpetuating a myth by ignoring our
In the end, our
lack of confidence in our parenting skill is also undermined. Never before in
history has parenting been as difficult. The world outside our homes is falling
apart on many levels. There are wars, famines, natural disasters, epidemics,
and unprecedented violence. We must not despair and decide we can’t make a
difference. We can make a significant difference if we each choose to, every
day. We must begin with our children. Mother Teresa, whom I lived with in the
1970s, continually exhorted people, “Start in your own families. Love each
child there first. Do not come to India. You have work to do in your own homes.”
If everyone did that, and it spread, there would be no hunger or loneliness or
If we begin in our
families with an unsure foundation, not confident that we can know what is best for our children, then
that shaky beginning will translate into a lack of security for our babies.
Instead, when we have educated ourselves the best we can, thoughtfully
discussed and tested each new idea with our partner and agree on what feels
good and right for us; that we
are doing our very best, that we may make mistakes but know we can learn from
them and move on, then we can have the assurance of knowing we will be the best
parents we can be and have happy, secure children.
There are numerous other examples of where we “thinking”
parents throw out our instincts in favor of doctors’ or educators’ views. First
we should stop and ask do these people
have children?
Then we should find out if what they have just published
earned them a degree.
This and other chapters will appear in my book, Stone Age Babies in a Space Age World: Babies and Bonding in the 21st Century

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