The Bonding Reflex and Kangaroo Care

Posted by Tawna - February 21st, 2011

I sent my book to be edited and am well into the process of doing the rewrites.  It is a book about my journey through a Newborn ICU (NICU) and the universal truths I learned from my micro-preemie. Writing this book has been a bitter-sweet trip down memory lane, putting all those experiences and their accompanying feelings front and center for me again. Today, as I thought about the topic for this month’s blog—the Bonding Reflex—I was doing some rewrites in the chapter about holding my baby for the first time. I reminded me of some facts I was taught about skin-to-skin, or Kangaroo Care, while being prepared to hold my preemie the first time.

Kangaroo Care is a Central America procedure we have adopted in the United States. It was explained to me that when a mother in some areas of Central America gave birth to a premature infant, the mortality rate was huge since there was very limited access to the sophisticated machinery of the American NICU. The doctors and nurses in Central America would have the mother and/or father expose the skin of their chest and the baby’s naked skin was laid directly on them. And here was true beauty and genius at work. The result was that the babies would live. It changed the face of premature infant mortality there so much that America noticed and wondered.

As our doctors looked closer, here is what they found. Babies who were “kangarooed” didn’t struggle with maintaining their heat, the number one problem for all premature babies.  They can’t maintain their heat and continue to grow their body’s systems. Our doctor’s found that when a baby was lying on mom’s or dad’s skin, the parent acted as the incubator and the baby could continue to develop those essential organs needed to survive outside the womb. They also discovered that laying the babies in direct skin contact with their parents very naturally stimulated them to breathe in concert with their parent’s rhythmic and calm breathing, greatly reducing the incident of apnea and bradycardic episodes. Oxygen needs were also minimal given the baby’s more normal and effective breathing patterns. The baby’s emotions were calmed as they lay with their ear on mom’s chest and listened to the familiar beating of her heart and other internal sounds that had provided the music by which they had been growing during pregnancy. Their heart rates decreased from the former wild beating that accompanied stressed babies. But here is the most beautiful effect of Kangaroo Care—mothers and babies bonded. With premature birth, the bonding issue is a big one since mothers might fear baby’s ability to survive in the first place, and secondly, because of the separation that treatment and support requires. It was a natural remedy that was blowing the medical mind!

Now, apply these facts to what we know about the Bonding Reflex. We discussed that a baby needs to be put on mom’s tummy directly after birth in order to evoke the kinesthetic feeling of the body center. Baby sees and hears mother, which activates sucking motions. All these things help to decrease birthing stress, lower adrenaline levels, and regenerate and adapt the infant to their “new world” faster. South America showed us the truth about this first hand, and now that America has joined the band wagon, these very results can be found in NICUs across the nation. Mother Nature had it right all along, of course!

I invite us to trust our innate wisdom and the genius with which we are formed, function, and healed. It is trustworthy! It is trustworthy at birth and remains so all through the path of our life’s journey.

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Posted by Tawna - February 5th, 2011

Working with children and adults in many learning environments, I have been struck by the difference between those who are motivated to learn through curiosity and those who are motivated to learn through fear.   Here’s what I mean.  I have noticed in any group—young or old—there will be some who seem curious about everything and want to engage in new learning so as to understand something they haven’t before.  They feel confident in their ability to acquire new understandings and engage with a spirit of excitement and delight at the prospect.  Learning, for them, seems to come easily and gracefully.  There will also be some who are almost at war with themselves.  They are lacking the sense of confidence exuded by the former individuals, and are driven by expectation (theirs, or someone else’s) and fear of failing.  Their learning process is fraught with dread and hard work.  The interesting thing to me is that there isn’t an actual difference in their ability to process and understand information, but there is a monumental difference in their approach to learning.  It leads me to ask why.

We mentioned in previous articles that the bonding reflex serves to decrease the heavy adrenaline overload triggered during birth.  The extreme adrenaline saturation of the body at birth is never achieved again in life.  It is a merciful solution to help us through a highly stressful event and is meant to support our body/mind/spirit system through the most exhausting segments.  The problem of staying in a sustained hyper-adrenaline state is that it begins to kill neurons and keeps the system in a state of protection for the preservation of life.   When the bonding reflex is not switched on after birth and the adrenaline state continues longer than intended, the learning code of our life is programmed as a call for stress hormones which triggers a protection mode in us.  Then, every time we encounter stressful learning environments in life, this code triggers a state of preservation rather than openness to learning.

A nonintegrated bonding reflex might manifest as follows in a child or adult who is put in a new learning experience.  The immediate response is subconsciously identified as stressful and the hyper-adrenaline state begins anew.  Logic and reasoning flee and the body responds on auto-pilot.  Breathing either becomes rapid and ineffective, or one finds they are holding their breath.  It is hard to see and/or comprehend what’s being seen.  Explanations and instructions become jumbled and undecipherable.  Thinking is muddled and foggy at best. It may become almost impossible to move oneself to action or, on the other hand, one may not be able to employ the natural pausing rhythm that learning requires.  Ultimately, the sense of being able to feel oneself is seriously hampered and is akin to having an out-of-body experience.

Conversely, those who have integrated bonding reflexes are much more likely to embrace the learning environment and actually seek it out.  For them, engaging in the learning process leaves breathing controlled and comfortable. The senses of seeing and hearing are coordinated and functioning. The ability to sort and extrapolate important pieces is smooth and easy. Fluctuation between response and pause is an elegantly coordinated choreography throughout the learning session. Overall, there is a great sense of feeling grounded within one’s self.

The bonding reflex brings integration of coordination, movement, emotions and thoughts.  It brings an awareness of our bodies as a unit.  We feel protected and taken care of, with an assurance that our primary needs can be met.  When this is the case, the body/mind/spirit system will allow energy to be redirected to allow cognitive activities. We are connected to our own essence and able to communicate in a give-and-take manner with those closest to us, as well as groups, societies, and the world.

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Posted by Tawna - January 31st, 2011

Last February I wrote an article about this particular reflex, and it has turned out to be the favorite one of all my blogs to date, so let’s expand on it.  Here is the next four-week information plan.  This week (week one) we are discussing the bonding reflex and the laterality dimension.  In week two we will discuss how the bonding reflex acts as a learning code for life.  Week three will bring insight as to how this reflex moves a baby from the state of survival and protection in utero to a state of growth and development with grace and ease.  The last week will provide a quick overview of possible non-integrated bonding reflex issues for adults.

To quickly review my first article introducing the bonding reflex, we discussed that a baby needs to be put on mom’s tummy directly after birth in order to evoke the kinesthetic feeling of the body center.  There, baby sees mom, hears her voice, and is offered mother’s breast to activate the first sucking motions.  All these things help to decrease birthing stress, lower adrenaline levels, and regenerate and adapt the infant to their “new world” faster.

The bonding reflex is driven by the laterality dimension, which is a scientific way to say the left and right sides of the brain—hence the term lateral.  These two hemispheres are connected by a super highway of nerve bundles called the corpus callosum.  The laterality dimension is the center for the whole mind-body system and is responsible for cooperation between the left and right sides of the body, as well as the integration of the left and right brain hemispheres.  This left-right coordination includes eyes and the development of binocular vision.  Seeing mom smile while lying on her body center begins to activate this co-ordination of vision.  It also includes left and right ears.  Hearing mom’s welcoming voice begins activate of binaural hearing.  The laterality dimension is also responsible for the movement of the whole body, with emphasis on left and right hands and legs.  If allowed to lie on mom’s body center immediately following birth, the baby will actually lift its head, see the dark coloring of the nipple area of the breast, and instinctually begin moving towards it.  And lastly, once the baby reaches the breast, it will begin to activate sucking motions.

If allowed to be activated in this way, a newborn’s laterality dimension is switched on for life learning.  Beyond left-right co-ordination, this dimension also has an influence on the co-operation between perception and our ability to communicate adequately.  In other words, our ability to experience new situations with full support for our perception and understanding is influenced in this dimension.  It allows us to interact effectively, becoming the intellectual and conceptual center for expression and speech.  If allowed the chance, baby will activate the basic processing of cause and effect relationships, movement, seeing, hearing, speech, and nurturing with the simple and profound experience of the bonding reflex at birth.

Now, lest anyone worry that all is lost because of the lack of bonding reflex activation at birth, it is important to know it can be programmed in and activated at any stage of life very simply and effectively.  That is the blessing of living in an innately wise body/mind/spirit system.  Call me at 801.599.2253 to talk with me about your particular situation and what can be done.

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Bonding Reflex

Posted by Tawna - February 1st, 2010

Bonding Reflex

Keeping in the spirit of the “season of love,” let’s talk shop. There are so many roadblocks to the expression of love, such as the giving and receiving . We all desire love; indeed, it is an essential ingredient—along with food and water—to the survival of human life. As infants are born, the ability to bond in the first forty-five minutes to an hour is vital to the foundation of all future feelings of safety—both physically and emotionally. When this Bonding Reflex is stimulated at birth, it will be the mechanism by which the infant will form a sense of basic trust with the people in its life, and of life itself. It is required before food or drink, and acts as the seat of learning to receive and then give love in return.

It is anchored on a physical level directly after the baby enters the world. To switch on the reflex, the new-born needs to see mother and hear her voice, then be placed on mother’s stomach or chest in a prone position to experience the kinesthetic feeling of the body center. Next baby needs to be offered mother’s breast to activate the first sucking motion. And then (twenty-five to thirty minutes later) the umbilical cord should be cut. When these things are allowed to happen, many blessings occur for the baby: birth stress is decreased, adrenaline levels are lowered, and faster regeneration and adaptation to a “new world” is facilitated. If the Bonding Reflex is not switched on directly after birth, the repercussions might present:

Co-dependent Relations: The infant, child, and eventually, the adult may experience suffering when alone or with strangers—even for short spans of time. Shyness may be demonstrated along with slow adaptation to new conditions and dislike of changes, embarrassment in social relations, continuous requests not to be left alone, crying, and being capricious. They will also create co-dependent attitudes towards people, things, ideas, etc.

Negation and Rejection of the World and of Own Self: This can appear as aggressive trends, hostility, being easily provoked to offensive behavior, and an inability to forgive.

Both are co-dependent learning styles. This develops into functioning on a “survival” level. Our “survival” tapes and learning style follow us through our lives and show up time and time again when the Bonding Reflex is left nonintegrated. Our relationships suffer badly and our ability to give and receive love is seriously hampered. Instead of being oriented towards acquiring information and understanding, we find ourselves clambering for support and praise that is driven by a fear of failure we can’t shake. We are over-sensitive to social opinion, reject our own feelings, and have difficulty in dealing with authority. We may find ourselves playing different survival roles in our relationships, such as fanatic, enabler, family hero, scapegoat, lost child, and mascot.

The very good news is that these problems can be addressed and changed at any point of realization that something is amiss with our Bonding Reflex regardless of age or circumstance. The process of integration is at once simple and profound. The process itself is simple. The results are profound and potentially life-changing. If you recognize yourself in any of this article, call me at 801.599.2253 and make an appointment to integrate your Bonding Reflex and remove a huge barrier in your life to giving and receiving love.

For more information go to and check out Integration of Dynamic and Postural Relflexes into the Whole Body Movement System (A Neurokinesiology Approach) by Dr. Svetlana Masgutova

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