Baby’s first 1000 days: “Mother’s moments of rest are crucial”

How long are the first 1000 days?

Schematically, the first 1,000 days correspond 300 days in the womb, 300 days against mother and father, 300 days in language acquisition. In reality, they begin before fertilization. When the future parents meet lovingly even before they have had fruitful intercourse, their psychological understanding creates a sensory field in which the future baby must develop.

What happens during this time?

At this point, the baby is developing his nervous system at breakneck speed, which allows him to learn how to form relationships. If the sensory niche is violent or absent (social issues, drugs, violence, etc.), the toddler will have trouble developing. Young parents would have to be accompanied very early on so that they stabilize before they even have a baby. It’s utopian, but theoretically you should do it.

needs of the baby

Why is it necessary to tackle the problem at the source?

Even before birth, the baby in the womb perceives its mother’s emotions, especially the substances that the stress releases from her. When she is stressed because her spouse is violent or absent, when she is in a vulnerable social situation or in a country at war, the stressors cross the placental barrier and get into the amniotic fluid, which the baby swallows. It affects his nervous system. The baby is born with brain damage caused not by the mother but by the mother’s misfortune. A safe mother becomes safe for the baby she carries. The political decision must therefore be to involve men very early in order to secure the future mother. Brain activity is so important at this stage of development that a baby can easily become stressed, but once safety is restored around them, neural resilience is very easy to trigger. In twenty-four to forty-eight hours, neural reconstruction is complete and the baby is catching up.

What does a toddler need?

When the baby is born, he recognizes the low frequencies of the mother’s voice and turns his head and eyes to it, while he does not do it for the other voices. It goes to the nipple. How does he know it matters to him? He knows what to do! If the mother – or a surrogate in the case of adoption, or a man who may be a “mother image” – does not interact with her baby, it will suffer from brain atrophy. Neuroscience measures, photographs and confirms what parents suspected but couldn’t prove. When I first said in the ’80s that an isolated baby atrophies part of its brain, I provoked disbelief. Well, that’s a triviality. Conclusion: A baby should not be left alone. But in west, we have become so individualistic that when a baby is born we make “his” room for him, nice and clean. But the baby is there alone, he is afraid because he has no maternal sedative. The baby must be at the hand of his parents for several months. All it takes is a raised hand or a spoken word to secure it. Little by little we take him to his room. Conversely, if the mother wants to be perfect, that is also a mistake. She needs to know how to be a mom, get tired and take a break. So it takes a relay: the father, the grandmother or an early childhood specialist.

The pressure of being a parent

Don’t today’s parents have too much information, pressure?

When a young woman gives birth to a baby, she is now around 31 years old, sometimes she has never held a baby in her arms, she has lived an active life… It’s a big change. Wondering if she’s scared for her little one, she tries to call the pediatrician, who sometimes doesn’t have time to answer her… and she feels alone. Today, of course, you can find a wealth of information on the Internet, but it is neutral, without affectivity. The First 1,000 Days Houses we championed in our report are the French equivalent of African villages, where neighbors gather to chat and offer one another advice. You will do good to the parents and thus to the children.

In a society where you have to perform at everything (be a good parent, be a good spouse, be a good employee…), where you are always in a hurry… how can you take the time it takes to do it like that build important bond of attachment?

Maternal burnout is increasing rapidly. You see perfect pictures on social media. The vast majority of parents want to be good parents, and sometimes they overdo it. Moms don’t have a union! It’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! So if you want to do well, you put yourself on the treadmill of exhaustion depression. When the father is there and takes part in the care, the mother is reassured. She can take a break while he takes over. It can also be a grandmother or an early childhood professional. Moments of rest from the mother are essential and also allow the child to bond with another figure, such as that of the second parent. If the mother is always there, it numbs the child’s psyche. When the mother comes back, we see that this has activated the attachment that the baby is happy to find her mother. And the second parent is proud to make his wife and baby happy. Everyone meets there! It is the family circle around the parents, the political decisions such as paternity leave, help for pregnant women through prenatal care, social and psychological help, etc. that will lead to fewer and fewer mothers burnout.

The role of the father in the postpartum period

The postpartum period is a time of great vulnerability for new mothers, how can you help them?

What role do fathers play in this time? Fathers naturally deal with the time after the birth. If they are there, there will be less postpartum depression. John Bowlby, founder of attachment theory, said in 1950 that the most protective family for a baby is a family system with multiple attachments: the mother, inevitable, and the father, the grandmother…Six to eight people must be around the baby, and when one of those people leaves, or if one of those people gets depressed, the baby’s sensory niche will continue to thrive. When the mother is alone and facing existential tragedy, there are no emotional, educational, or social substitutes.

In your report you recommend nine weeks’ paternity leave. It was extended to four weeks. Is it alright?

The countries of the north have set up paternity leave, sometimes ten to eleven months. French entrepreneurs feared these holidays, thinking they would penalize their businesses. In Norway and Quebec, where the evaluation was conducted, we find that when fathers go on paternity leave, they are happy, efficient and profitable when they come back. While a father guilty of abandoning his wife and baby does not improve his profitability. The government gave us half of what we asked to prove that a father taking paternity leave does not hurt the company’s profitability. When the latter are reassured, perhaps we will further increase paternity leave for the benefit of the wife, the baby and the husband. What do you think of the measures that the government has implemented following your report? It’s a good start. Young parents accept our reforms very well. The government, and Adrien Taquet in particular, is spreading the good news tremendously.

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