My premature son, only 2 pounds at birth at 28 weeks was now 32 weeks old and strong and stable enough to be transported to the local hospital where I worked to “feed and grow” instead of over an hour drive from our home. We said goodbye to our amazing NICU staff and packed him up in his compact incubator. The ambulance staff rolled his incubator into the elevator with me following close behind. We arrived on the ground floor and were feet away from the ambulance when all the alarms began to sound. Red lights were flashing and I looked in the incubator to see my infant son’s coloring gone wrong. He had stopped breathing. We opened up the incubator and I picked him up. He woke up and then relaxed in my arms, and began to breathe regularly again. Refusing to let go of him I made the ambulance staff break protocol as we returned to the NICU with him in my arms and the incubator empty. He was not ready to make that hour journey. He needed his mother to hold him close. He needed a heavy dose of “mamatonin.”
It is now almost 13 years later. My two sons are healthy and strong. I needed to leave my children for Mother’s Day this year in order to attend a continuing medical education meeting on Nutrition and Health for my professional calling as an Integrative Family Physician. Because I could not be with my children on that day this year, the significance of motherhood seemed even more profound. While it certainly expands far beyond our western medical framework, I feel called to review the medical powers of motherhood.
There is no debate over the uniqueness of the mother/child bond. I came up with the term mamatonin years ago after I found myself snuggling with my boys at bedtime in lieu of melatonin. Melatonin is a frequently recommended OTC supplement for sleep. It is also great for reflux and gut relaxation. Just being in the room with either son, sharing some stories from the day, helps him feel safe and able to fall asleep. I also note that when I am stressed, unable to relax, mind buzzing or in a hurry, it negates the therapeutic effect of the mamatonin.
This mother/child bond can be quite amazing. It includes the genetic connection but also a biochemical and energetic connection. These elements have been observed and shared many places. I write of them here to not only remind us, but to name it as an official almost “medication.” Too often we jump to treatments that are packaged and advertised. Let me offer to you, that mamatonin is such a priceless powerful treatment that it is universal, time tested and not commercially available. It also highlights the importance of the mother taking care of herself. The industrial age and now the technology age, offer unique challenges to the mother/child bond. We cannot forget its critical importance. I acknowledge there are adoptive mothers who amazingly overc0me some barriers and become even more connected. I also acknowledge there are some natural mothers who for multiple reasons cannot provide this healing power.
Mothers are known to nurture, nourish, and protect. The obvious benefits of breast feeding your child have been well publicized. Also consider what food you feed your child. I saw a mom recently who was buying 7-up for her “skinny” 14 yr old son who drank it by the liter. She herself was struggling with high blood sugars. Sometimes we don’t step back and consider what we are doing to our children by what food we bring into the home and what we surround them with.
Beyond that, there is other information supporting mamatonin. Much research has been done on the hormone oxytocin. Here is a great Ted Talk on trust, morality and oxytocin and how just by hugging your children you are impacting them.
There has also been great research on children’s cells in mother’s brains. This Scientific American article talks about this amazing link in a mothers brain of cells from our children’s genetic code that cross the placenta when pregnant. Amazing!
I am also fascinated with a concept called coherence that has been researched looking at how a mother brain waves can then impact her baby’s heart rate. Check out the site HeartMath for further information. We have heard about it in a lot of research about attachment in infants. But it is not just what happens with infants and mothers, but with people of all ages and that deep bond is very powerful. The setting or energy field of the mother can greatly impact her child.
So, what are some things Mamatonin supports?
- family game night
- family meals together
- mom having time to take care of herself and “de-stress”
- listening to a mother’s gut instinct about her child
- mother-child walks
- reading to your children no matter what age
I thank my mom for all the mamatonin she has provided me over all these years and I thank my children for the opportunity to pass it on! I encourage you to explore the medicinal powers of your relationship with your child and mother no matter what age. It’s one of the best medicines around!
Bravo! Beautiful piece! It’s so exciting to see medicine embracing the common sense understanding of how powerful love and bonding with our loved ones can truly be for each other. And I love being able to experience these insights from your perspective.
Excellent new term. Imagine sharing the experience among the allomothers in the sense of http://discovermagazine.com/2003/mar/feathrdy#.UeXCX_ks-So
Hmm…much to ponder.
The “back transporting” of infants to “feed and grow” is, sadly, in serious jeopardy. Whether unintended consequences or by design, more and more insurance companies (including Medicaid) are denying (citing most often COBRA regulations which were developed to prevent the “dumping” of patients on other hospitals), are denying these types of transfers. Regulations PROHIBIT the transfer from a facility with a “HIGHER” level of care to an institution with a “LOWER” level of care. As a Newborn ICU Physician, have watched as twins siblings were separated, for months at a time. I have watched as families further break their home finances, to travel literally hundreds of miles weekly, just to see their baby. Women’s and Children’s healthcare comprises such a tiny portion of the healthcare dollars “we” spend in our Country, surely we can, and MUST do better than this for our families in crisis.
I absolutely agree. So powerful and impacting so much. Thank you for your comments and the wonderful work you do for these families! It ties into my next blog on the Escape Fire movie. We need to ground the system with more common sense…