Your Amazing Newborn {How Nature Protects Your Baby’s Brain}


{Photography by the Spikey Hedgehog}

Our baby’s brains are even more amazing — and resilient — than we think. Here are three ways that nature protects your baby’s brain.


BABIES WERE DESIGNED FOR BIRTH. Yes, birth is a physical ordeal both for moms and babies. Any mama can see to what her baby goes through physically during birth by taking a glance at her newborn’s funky-shaped head. But babies’ brains were not only designed to withstand the stresses of birth — the birth process actually helps them thrive.

In one study, a team of scientists led by the Yale University School of Medicine found that natural or vaginal births seemed to offer long-term protection to babies’ brains. They found that natural birth triggered the release of a brain-cell protecting protein, known as UCP-2, in newborns’ brains. This protein is critical for the survival and development of neurons and connections in the hippocampus — the brain region involved in learning and memory.

In another fascinating study, scientists found that the massive surge in the maternal hormone OXYTOCIN that happens during natural birth might help protect newborns against birth-induced brain injury. The study found that the surge of oxytocin – aka the hormone of birth – quieted fetal brain cells, thereby protecting them from the damaging effects of oxygen deprivation during birth.


{Image by Crowned Photography}


“This blood is not cord blood, it is baby’s blood. This blood belongs to the baby, not the umbilical cord.” ~ Robin Lim

Delayed cord clamping, the act of allowing the umbilical cord to continue pulsating for 60 seconds or more after birth, is considered an alternative birth practice in most hospitals in the United States. But early cord clamping – the typical practice – is actually a medical intervention. Recent studies have shown how babies benefit from receiving what’s theirs: the blood that remains in their umbilical cord after birth.

A large systematic review suggested that delaying cord clamping by even one minute increased an infant’s iron stores for up to six months, reducing iron deficiency and anemia. DCC (Delayed Cord Clamping) was found to benefit even those newborns at low-risk for iron deficiency. Since iron deficiency and anemia in babies has been associated with an increased risk of infection, difficulty feeding, and impaired brain development, DCC may be good for your baby’s brain! Since scientists haven’t yet studied long-term benefits of DCC, more research is needed. (Get on it, scientists!)


{Image by Brynja Photography}


Most of us know that breastfeeding is good for babies … but how soon, and for how long? Some amazing new research shows that exclusive breastfeeding, for a longer duration, helps babies’ brains develop both from the earliest days and for the long-term.

An amazing new study used specialized, baby-friendly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at the brain growth in a sample of children under the age of 4. The research found that by age 2, babies who had been breastfed exclusively for at least 3 months had enhanced development in key parts of the brain compared to children who were fed formula or who were fed a combination of formula and breastmilk. The extra growth was most pronounced in parts of the brain associated with language, emotional function, and cognition.

The study also looked at the effects of the duration of breastfeeding. The researchers compared babies who were breastfed for more than a year with those breastfed less than a year, and found significantly enhanced brain growth in the babies who were breastfed longer — especially in areas of the brain dealing with motor function. Amazing!


Yes, it’s normal to fear the unknown when it comes to birthing and breastfeeding your baby. But sometimes it’s good to have a little faith, and remember that our bodies can provide what our babies need.


Love, Kate

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