The Wonder of Birth and Baby’s Relational Capacity

Babies are not ‘blank sheets’ but have a sheet with ‘‎certain tentative outlines’. They are endowed with three brains with adaptive outlines and potential for further wiring. These brains are the reptilian, mammalian and rational.

All these are part of a cerebral symphony that needs a conductor, a carer to help them work together. 90% of brain growth happens in the first year, emotions and social intelligence are stimulated or possibly trimmed prematurely with synaptic pruning by the second year and is very responsive to outside and relational influences. The garden, the brain needs the gardener (mother and father) to feed the plants (brains and synapses) with fertilizer (food and love) in order to enable to grow to it’s full potential (genetic, biological and psychological optimum).

An infant has co-perative sensitive brains that enable them to pick up on frequencies around them. As soon as they are born they are receptive to their mother and father, their body warms as soon as it has body to body contact and babies seem most interested in their parent’s face even when the nipple is in their  eye line.

Babies are surprisingly attentive and can be described in an ‘active alert’ way, as if engaged with heightened awareness absorbing their parent and waiting for regular cues.  This is when the mother’s voice and smell is a predictable marker for further neonate receptivity, gearing up to the recognisable family rhythm. That the baby is familiar with in the womb and soon knows they will be fed. It’s as if once reassured of the first steps; being in mother’s arms; hearing her familiar voice; absorbing her face and smell, then the baby is ready for the next steps, breastfeeding.

Voices are very important to babies and they are programmed to enjoy human speech as opposed to mechanised or not live (from radio even), they can tell the difference and respond vicariously through their body as if dancing to people voices. Again mother (foetal forms a memory of mother’s voice) delights in seeing her baby respond to her voice, this continues into infancy where babies respond physically, as if in a mutually responsive voice-body dialogue. Even though human infants are the least hard wired, they are born with certain inbuilt tendencies. Such as preferring sweet tastes such as milk and not bitter tastes such as most poisons, this capacity makes evolutionary sense for basic survival.

Certain preferences are inculcated, round dark darkened circles are more attractive to babies and like a guiding beacon the baby roots for the breast by using innate ‘stepping reflexes’, climbing up mother’s belly and smelling the amniotic fluid on his hands, the baby is helped to make a sensory connection to the oily substance on the breast. Simultaneously the stepping reflex process puts pressure on the mother’s abdomen that aids the expulsion of the placenta to avoid infection. In addition the baby’s mouth to her nipple increases oxytocin levels (falling in love hormone) in both baby and mother. The baby sucking the nipple also stimulates prolactin which increases milk production. Oxytocin, opiods (natural pain relief) are triggered in the brain of the mother and baby, this imprints their first post partum introduction with good, very intense memorable feelings to forge a wonderful bond.

Oxytocin levels are known to drop in mothers on hearing their babies cry. When reunited with her baby the baby ‘coohs’ back, and this symbiosis is a soothing dance that starts.  Once mother hears that her oxytocin levels go up and her body becomes warmer, thus incentivising her to pick up her baby.

At birth the basic brains are seeded and budding, the rational brain is the least developed but the most important for sophisticated humanoid interactions in adult life, the lower reptilian brain with the high emotional mammalian brain (limbic systems firing up) are more in charge. So when babies are very distressed they actually need an ‘emotional pacifier’, the carer sooths them physically with touch which in turn stokes the vagus nerve. This is placed within the curve of the neck‎ although innocuously placed it is very important and helps regulate body functions such as heart rate, digestive system and the immune system. A healthy vagus nerve can be established with regular comforting of an infant and helps later with emotional balance, improved concentration and balanced lucid thinking.

Cuddling, massaging and talking can help babies feed better, less likely to suffer colic and more likely to remain calmer. A calm loving relationship helps to stimulate cerebral connectors between all three brains.

If a baby is left unaided when terrified this increases the firing up of the amygdala, an alarm system that disrupts the fine equilibrated and calibrated chemicals in the frontal lobes. It is necessary for the rational brain to not be impeded, it increases memory  capacity which helps internalisation and self regulatory capacities so that baby can remember that ‘mummy is coming and she is safe’ and kick starts affect regulatory development. If the lower brain is over stimulated then there is no space for other brain growth such as the frontal lobe development – this enables learning and language and therefore could be further mutually enhancing for self regulation at around 1 year of age.

An over active lower brain baby will grow into an overly stressed adult unable to modulate his fear or anger in severe cases leads to clinical depression.

There needs to be a flow of emotional reassurance, parent’s sing song voice and warm body passes on calming sensory information to the baby facilitating a smoother running of the cerebral orchestra.