Child rearing practices of distant ancestors foster morality, compassion in kids, research says
Three new studies led by Notre Dame Psychology Professor Darcia Narvaez show a relationship between child rearing practices common in foraging hunter-gatherer societies (how we humans have spent about 99 percent of our history) and better mental health, greater empathy and conscience development, and higher intelligence in children.
“Our research shows that the roots of moral functioning form early in life, in infancy, and depend on the affective quality of family and community support,” says Narvaez, who specializes in the moral and character development of children.
Narvaez identifies six characteristics of child rearing that were common to our distant ancestors:
• Lots of positive touch - as in no spanking - but nearly constant carrying, cuddling and holding;
• Prompt response to baby’s fusses and cries. You can’t “spoil” a baby. This means meeting a child’s needs before they get upset and the brain is flooded with toxic chemicals. “Warm, responsive caregiving like this keeps the infant’s brain calm in the years it is forming its personality and response to the world,” Narvaez says.
• Breastfeeding, ideally 2 to 5 years. A child’s immune system isn’t fully formed until age 6 and breast milk provides its building blocks.
• Multiple adult caregivers - people beyond mom and dad who also love the child.
• Free play with multi-age playmates. Studies show that kids who don’t play enough are more likely to have ADHD and other mental health issues.
• Natural childbirth, which provides mothers with the hormone boosts that give the energy to care for a newborn.
Here is a well referenced blog post that all pregnant women should read.
I am giving the 10 areas she talks about, to read all the information and references, please visit the post. If you are pregnant I urge you to discuss all of these issues with your midwife or doctor, if they are not open to discussion and avoiding these interventions routinely consider another health care provider.
My concern is with any practitioner, MD or midwife, who ignores evidence because “I’ve always done it this way and never had a problem. . .”
Following is a sampling of the current evidence regarding ten procedures commonly used in modern obstetrics despite a lack of evidence to support their use. Please note: many of these procedures are beneficial in specific situations. It is their routine use without medical indication that I am addressing.
1. Inductions/elective c-sections for suspected macrosomia (big baby)
2. Pitocin to speed labor
3. Amniotomy to speed labor
4. Continuous electronic fetal monitoring
5. Requirement of “immediate” emergency services for women attempting a VBAC.
6. Routine Episiotomy
7. Routine ultrasound to estimate fetal size
8. Immediate cord clamping
9. Directed (purple) pushing
10. Supine Pushing
Full post with references
Along the same lines there is also this study:
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has published a report on disrespect and abuse in facility-based childbirth around the world. Read that here.
More good news:
New Mothers Grow Bigger Brains Within Months of Giving Birth: Warmer Feelings Toward Babies Linked to Bigger Mid-Brains
ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2010) — Motherhood may actually cause the brain to grow, not turn it into mush, as some have claimed. Exploratory research published by the American Psychological Association found that the brains of new mothers bulked up in areas linked to motivation and behavior, and that mothers who gushed the most about their babies showed the greatest growth in key parts of the mid-brain.
Read full article
FYI - There are many states running campaigns and/or even trying to pass laws against co-sleeping. I thought this statement by UNICEF was a good counter and the appropriate common sense response to this trend.
"The authors state it is difficult to be precise about the dominant direction of the relationship between bed-sharing and breastfeeding, whether mothers share beds because they are breastfeeding or whether bed sharing make breastfeeding more likely to be successful. They conclude that given the likely beneficial effects of bed sharing on breastfeeding rates and duration, risk reduction messages to prevent sudden infant deaths should be targeted more appropriately to unsafe infant care practices such as sleeping on sofas, bed sharing after the use of alcohol or drugs, or bed sharing by parents who smoke and that advice on whether bed-sharing should be discouraged needs to take into account the important relationship with breastfeeding. This research was partly funded by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths."
See full article