Restoring the original paradigm
Humanization of childbirth has also changed the practices regarding newborn care. Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) is now recognized as the ideal care for newborns, especially premature babies, and is recommended by the World Health Organization (World Health Organization, Department of Reproductive Health and Research, 2003). The kangaroo position consists of skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the infant in a strictly vertical position, between the mother’s breasts and under her clothes. In kangaroo mother care the four basic biological needs of the infant are covered: nutrition, oxygenation, warmth and protection (Charpak et al., 2005).
Anthropologically, this “new” way of caring for infants (KMC) makes sense. Homo sapiens evolved as “hunter gatherers” over the last 3 million years. There are still ancient hunter-gatherer communities living in modern times. In these groups, newborns and infants are carried constantly, they sleep with their mothers, there is an immediate nurturing response to crying, feeding takes place every 1 or 2 hours on demand, and breastfeeding continues for two years or more. According to nutritional anthropologist Daniel W. Sellen in the 2007 edition of the Annual Review of Nutrition, breastfeeding beyond age 2 years was typical in 75–83% of hunter–gatherer societies, with the average age at weaning approximately 30 months (Mead, 2008). In the last 200 years, this million year old pattern of “carry care” has been rapidly changed to one where the child is left lying still, termed “cache care”, and as a result experiences prolonged separation from its mother. Infant care recommendations have further digressed from the evolutionary model of relationship between mother and child, by imposing strict feeding regimes. In “nest care” a crying infant is ignored, and feeding takes place every three or four hours by the clock, with formula. The physiological way of care was replaced without a deep understanding of the possible long-term effects.
Lozoff states that these changes alter the initiation of the mother-infant relationship, which may be “strained beyond the limits of adaptability”(Lozoff, Brittenham, Trause, Kennell, & Klaus, 1977). Neonatologist Nils Bergman says, “The primary violation, the worst case scenario, to any newborn is separation from its habitat/mother.”(Bergman, 2005)Bergman proposes restoring what he calls the original paradigm as the norm for raising babies. Utilizing a more biological approach to childrearing brings many challenges from social and cultural perspectives. In this modern world many women want to resume working outside the home soon after delivery, and many men look forward to relating with their babies more intimately than previous generations of fathers.
Developmental psychology studies have not yet looked at how attachment to nature normally develops through infancy. Does early skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding have an impact on the developing mind concerning attachment to nature? Children who were born in undisturbed physiological births, whose cords were not clamped right away, who were carried or otherwise kept in close skin-to-skin contact for the first days and weeks of their lives, who were breastfed until spontaneously weaned, and who co-slept with their parents for most of their first two or three years of their lives, have rarely been considered the reference point.
More trans-cultural ethno-pediatric studies are needed to deepen our understanding of the development of ecological unconsciousness in different cultures and especially in those cultures that develop a more balanced relationship with nature and their environment. In this direction, the pioneer work of Jean Liedloff who, back in the seventies, compared the psychological development of Yequana Indians compared to occidental New York City babies is revealing. Her idea of the “continuum concept” (Liedloff, 1975)is closely related to Nils Bergman’s “original paradigm.” Other authors have followed this approach to suggest how physiological childrearing could help understanding and healing with adopted or institutionalized children (Gribble, 2007).
Are children reared in a more physiological way, with natural birth, exclusive breastfeeding, close mother and father baby contact, more empathetic towards the non-human world? How could we help the ecological unconscious develop? What can fathers do? If there is no traumatic disruption during birth, and the baby is nurtured early in a physiological way, will the baby grow with a strong and healthy attachment to both his parents and his natural habitat? Can nature attachment be a natural result of healthy, secure attachment to both parents? How early does parental role modeling of relationship to nature affect the infant attachment development?
Part III: Breastfeeding, sustainability and Eco-feminism