In many modern hospital settings, newborn babies are isolated from their mothers immediately after birth, to be washed, weighed and footprinted. But dozens of well-designed studies have shown that this time is critical for the baby’s health, emotional wellbeing and connection with its mother.
Minutes after birth, babies have a supersensitive sense of smell. Experiments have been carried out exposing babies to cherry and mango oils the hour after they were born, and the babies remembered these smells days later and preferred them. This window isn’t open for very long. When the experimenters exposed babies to cherry and mango odours 12 hours after birth, they showed no memory of or preference for them later.
This is why newborns may grow attached to the first people they smell. They’re programmed to recognise and prefer their mothers and other care-givers.
It has been seen that if you spend the golden hour in an intimate embrace with your newborn, you’re eight times more likely to breast-feed spontaneously than a mother who doesn’t. One Russian experiment found mothers who were placed skin-to-skin with their newborns had stronger, more responsive relationships one year after birth than those who were separated. Private maternity hospitals will offer new mothers the highest level of care and private midwives can ensure babies are not isolated from their mothers.