New York Times Letter to the Editor

I don’t understand why researchers and journalists aren’t looking at the difference between mothers who work apart from – and are separate from – their newborns and babies and mothers of toddlers and those with school age children who work outside the home. The author of the article, “Ready to Rejoin the Rat Race” (8/11)  made no distinction. It’s by no means the same when a baby 6 weeks old is placed in full-time day care, as when a when a child of 4 has a mother working outside the home, especially when the mother of the infant is poor and suffering the effects of racism and the mother of the 4 year old can afford in-house one-to-one childcare.

Today, the critical mother-baby bond has been stressed and stretched to the breaking point, especially in the U.S., one of only 2 “modern” nations that still has no guaranteed and paid maternity leave for all women. One result: women anxiously starting to seek child care when they are just 6 months pregnant and broken-hearted when, after giving birth, they face returning to work fulltime just weeks after giving birth. The science of epigenetics has proven that when mothers are under great stress – for any reason, and most American women have numerous stresses – there is direct negative impact on her baby, developmentally, right from the cellular level.

It’s a matter of whether we grow in a state of defense or trust. When an organism grows in a state of defense in the womb, because it’s cell membrane (brain) “reads” danger from the outside (the mother, when she’s releases high levels of stress hormones), that baby cannot grow fully. And mothers who are separated more than a couple hours a day from their infants are less likely to breastfeed exclusively for the 1st 6 months and more likely to wean very early. Fewer than one mother in five is breastfeeding fully six weeks after birth . And our American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not weaning before age two, because of the lifelong health implications. Mothers who go back to work outside the home in the first year after birth are also more like to sleep in a separate room from their baby and babies need to be within 3 feet of the human heart and to be skin-to-skin with a parent, against their chest (“kangarooed”) for a miminum of 3 hours a day for the first six months, to stabilize and self-regulate and develop proper sleep and so much more.

It’s just too hard on women to give their babies what’s needed. Most of us suffer from maternal deprivation. And the hallmarks of our interventive modern birth practices and child care practices are separation, isolation, hyperstimulation, on top of maternal and paternal deprivation.

What more evidence do we need than the skyrocketing rates of chronic illness – directly related to poorly developed immune systems in infancy, directly related to lack of breastfeeding and more – as well as obesity and addiction. Look at the numbers of women given antidepressants prophylactically in pregnancy by their OB-GYN, or afterwards for depression, and the number of our nation’s children on pharmaceutical drugs for colic, for anxiety and depression, and for learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

The needs of the adult human soul are similar to the needs of babies – a slow pace, a peaceful environment, and quiet, loving attention. Our increasingly high-paced, high-pressure and distracted lifestyle doesn’t serve our babies or ourselves and has led to a spate of public health and family problems. Please, do us the favor of reporting on working mothers in a more in-depth and discerning way.

Suzanne Arms
Founder-Director, Birthing The Future®, a Colorado-based 501c3 nonprofit

PH: 970-946-6994

suzanneNew York Times Letter to the Editor