Social Media is interfering your baby bonding moment.
by Sophie Fletcher
Roll up roll up, we’ve just had a baby, yep, just a couple of minutes ago. Let’s get our baby onto our social networks, Facebook/tweet/pinterest our birth, hell why not go the whole hog and broadcast the birth, live? The moments after birth are so important but that important baby bonding time is now usurped by Facebook and twitter.
We live in age of instant communication, we become immersed in it, hooked on it and we begin to forget what experience really is. I’ve started reading a great book called “You are not a Gadget” by Jaron Lanier, he writes “Giving yourself time and space to think and feel is crucial to your existence. You have to find a way to be yourself before you can share yourself”.
Important words, especially to a new mum or dad whose baby’s tiny visual digital imprint may have begun after their first scan and extends into those precious moments after the birth. Surely being at the birth is one of the most important times to really experience that rare moment when you become a mum or a dad, to get to look at and absorb the wonder of this tiny little being you have waited so patiently for. Baby bonding is about this magical moment, when the oxytocin is sky high and your baby is in your arms for the first time. By tweeting, facebooking or blogging about it instantaneously you lose the experience of being in that moment and of your baby bonding with you.
I was inspired to write this blog after talking to a midwife who coordinates breastfeeding training and she asked me how we can make women understand just how important that first hour is after birth for baby bonding. She said women are taking photos on their phones tweeting, facebooking and are not present with the baby or engaged in the experience. Her worry is that this will affect the baby bonding and will have an impact on breastfeeding. I had often considered the consequences to the birth or postnatal period of exposure, through films, photos or other media on the birth itself, as well as after the birth, and here was a midwife who was seeing it happening in labour rooms everywhere. Since I spoke to her midwives say this is one of the most irritating things after the birth, and have gone as far to admit they just want to confiscate the phones, when they see a new baby left on the bed while mum is texting.
We underestimate what experience really means, to be mindful of that moment in time, to absorb the feelings, the environment and to be really aware. If we are clicking away behind a camera lens mindlessly in those precious moments we are losing that experience. Of course we can be mindful photographers, but we are not mindfully present in the experience of observing, holding, smelling and bonding with the new baby.
The second thing that strikes me about the endemic use of recording equipment and online narratives of a birth is the affect it can have on the birth itself. Birth is all about oxytocin, and what we always teach in our Mindful Mamma classes is that it’s a shy hormone, it doesn’t want to be watched and observed. Filming a birth may be perfectly fine for some people, but we underestimate the unconscious processes unfolding during a birth and knowing you are being filmed may consciously feel fine, but may actually slow things down if at some level you are aware of it and feel uncomfortable.
When I originally taught hypnobirthing I was asked if the people on my classes would be interested in filming their births, it seemed completely incongruent to me that we were asking women to be filmed while at the same teaching about the role of oxytocin and reducing interruptions or people in the room. I have never asked and never will even suggest this to my clients. If someone wants to film their birth, it should come from them, not because of the expectations of others or because everyone else is doing it but for reasons that are embedded in their own values and beliefs. It’s worth stopping and thinking about why you want to film, record, facebook or tweet your birth. Why do you need to do it in that moment?
But importantly after baby is born, put away the camera or ask the midwife/doula/other birth partner to take a photo, mum don’t go near a phone at least in the first hour. Enjoy that baby bonding experience, have your baby on your chest, smell your baby’s skin, explore your baby’s face, experience that love you feel without interruption, you’ll only get a limited opportunities to do this in your life. And it’s pretty amazing.