Skin-to-skin contact is
The DNA makes a brain that is able to take in expected sensations: mother provides the first sensations that make the brain work well.
The DNA makes proteins, that makes cells, and one of the earliest cells is the NEURON. Neurons grow long branches at one end, and an axon with more branches at the other end. The neuron is “excitable”. Some neurons specialize to be excitable or sensitive to a specific sensation, like sound, sound, smell or touch. This sensation from the external environment then triggers an electric discharge from the cell along the axon to another neuron inside the brain. Repeated firing from one neuron to another makes a permanent connection between them. Unfired neurons are in the way, and are removed. Connected neurons make pathways, and these can feed back to one another to make circuits. Lots of circuits make networks, and it is these networks which make our brains capable of the amazing things we can do.
These networks start developing early in the womb, and continue to develop over several years. Just like the DNA makes “Predictive Adaptive Responses” – the brain makes circuits that are adapted to the environment. (It is still the DNA which is working, but now together with the neurons). The “Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness” refers then to expected PLACE where the DNA and neurons together make the predictions for how to be in the future. For the human newborn, this place is the mother. It might seem a bit insulting to say mother is a place, but to the newborn brain she is first the safe place, and then becomes the safe person.
What we now understand is that this safe place provides to the DNA and the brain ALL the sensations necessary for development. Mother’s skin-to-skin contact provides actual warmth … both as a pleasant sensation as well as a source of calories for maintaining temperature. Baby can keep his own temperature up, by burning his own calories, but does not need to when given these by mother. Instead, the calories can be used for growing. Mother’s smell is familiar and reassuring, and pathways for bonding are wired. Mother’s voice is also familiar, and fires a motor response turning face and eyes to mothers face.
Every single sensation we know, and perhaps more we have not yet discovered or understood, are working in this early period of development. What we understand from careful neuroscience research is that each maternal sensation has a specific effect on the circuits in the brain, which make connections to the body and its organs. In this way, the mother provides what is called REGULATION. Maternal sensations regulate the set point for the temperature, for the heart rate, for the appetite, for the hormone levels, for the blood pressure, for absolutely everything. This maternal regulation provides the ideal setting, the physiological set points, at which the sum total of development takes place most efficiently and effectively, to the best possible level of achievement. The more firmly these are established, the better the body is able to return to normal when disturbed.
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