Miercuri, 03 Martie 2021 09:53

Babies are not just reflexes

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In the third module of the  Prenatal and Perinatal Educator (PPNE) Certificate Program developed by APPPAH (Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health), I made an essay about the new way of seeing babies, because babies are not just reflexes. You can read below the essay. You will need to allocate some time, as there is a lot of information, but if you're interested I'm sure there will be more moments of amazement.   

 Image source: Wilks, J., 2015

There is a sense of coming from somewhere, of an emerging awareness of your surroundings. Being encased in warmth and fluid. An emerging experience of your body, of being able to move limbs, of the beating of your huge heart. A visceral felt sense of noise all around you – the muffl sounds of outside and the intense sounds inside; of your mother’s heart, of her digestion. There is the ‘taste’ of things coming in through your belly. As you grow, there is a feeling of confinement, of things pressing in on you, of a lack of space. A growing anticipation that at some time soon you will have to leave this environment. The environment might be a comfortable place for you or it might be a place that you can’t wait to leave. You have a growing interest and sense of what is to come, what is waiting for you on the outside. You are intensely curious and tuned into your mother’s feelings, her anticipation, and perhaps fears about the birth. You begin to wonder how you will be welcomed in this world. Will you be accepted, looked after, acknowledged, loved? (Wilks, J., 2015)

„What Am I now then?” is a rhetorical question addressed by the baby just being born, in the drawing above, to the doctor and his parents, that synthesize the old paradigm of seeing the babies as a human being after they were born. Due to the evolution of technology and the development of science, medicine and psychology, the unborn was seen as a human being, able to feel, to perceive, to think, to learn, to interact, to communicate, to make the decision, to have memories and manifesting his personality.

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In the 19th century paradigm scientists knew „that the brains of babies were small and undeveloped; they could see how poorly coordinated the motor system was and believed that babies could not organize themselves, control behavior, or attach meaning to experience. On this basis, pain and suffering were impossible, violent reactions were only "reflexes," and smiles and other facial expressions were "artifacts.”(Chamberlain, D. 1999)

There were a lot of myths regarding pregnancy and childbirth, different in each culture, that formed the image of the prenate and newborn. In more traditional societies, these myths are the pillars that can't be knocked down by scientific research. „...there is a set of beliefs that have been entrenched over generations that might be typified by the following statements: Babies don’t remember pain and experiencing it will not have any lasting effect on them. Babies are born without a refined consciousness or sophisticated awareness. The over-riding importance is that the baby is born alive. How it gets there is of little consequence to the baby. It is not so important whether the baby gets born vaginally or by other means.” (Wilks, J. 2015)

Until the late 1980s, the medical community believed that it was unnecessary to anesthetize premature and full-term infants who required major surgery because these infants did not have the capacity to perceive pain. It was also believed that the anesthesia was too dangerous. As a result of these beliefs, premature and full-term newborns underwent major surgery unanesthetized. They were routinely given a form of curare to paralyze their muscles for surgery, rendering them incapable of movement and also unable to express pain and protest (Chamberlain, 1999).

The umbilical cord between the old paradigm and the new one was cut during the last 40 years due to the new theories in the field of psychology (mind and consciousness), technology (intrauterine photography, sonography and radioimmunoassay), biological research, genetics (epigenetics). Now the professionals (nursing, midwifery, childbirth education, obstetrics, psychology & therapy) struggle to keep up with the new discoveries and the way the new knowledge could be implemented in their practice.

In the following pages, I will share the scientific research that supports and develop this new paradigm. I will start with one important assumption about human development, that was demonstrated over the years, that „components of a biological system come into use before the system itself is fully functional. In fact, use is necessary for development to proceed.” (Hartman, D., Zimberoff, D. 2002). So what are the components that come in use before the system is functional? And how these scientific findings support the new paradigm?

Heart and Blood

The heart and blood play a vital role in processing sensory information from the bodily environment. Both the heart and blood are now known to be constantly making metabolic and physiological changes based on this information (Furst, 2014; Holdrege & Creeger, 2002). The blood is the first organ to differentiate during the second week post fertilization (Volger, 1987). The heart begins to differentiate in the third week post fertilization and by the fourth week is complete enough to form systemic circulation. The first heartbeat is at about 23 days after conception, long before the heart’s valves, chambers, and blood vessels are completed.

„The maternal-prenate psychophysiological relationship may play an important role during the numerous sensitive periods of prenatal heart and blood development, especially in light of the intimate somatic and neurological relationship between the heart and blood and the ANS. The cardiovascular system must undergo a dramatic series of changes immediately after birth to accommodate pulmonary respiration and the transition from aquatic breathing to air breathing.” (Weinstein, A. 2016)


„We have four distal senses and three proximal or hidden senses. The four distal (or foreground) senses include vision, hearing, taste, and smell. It is difficult to separate touch and join and body movement, so the tactile sense is considered part of both the proximal and distal senses. The three senses that are proximal or hidden are touch (tactile) awareness, body position (proprioception) and movement (vestibular) awareness. The proximal senses are complicated and are considered key to one's ability to integrate sensory information accurately (Schepers &Benson, 2006).”


Using a series of animal dissections and ultrasound technology, O'Rahilly and Muller, in 1996, discovered a lot of insights regarding the development of the eye. The primary organ of vision is the eye, with the earliest organ being the eyespots, which form around 28 days gestation (Tsiaras, 2002). The optic sulci become visible at four weeks. The retinal and lens discs appear around four and a half weeks. Approximately 100 million neurons form the visual system between fourteen and twenty-eight weeks’ gestation, but these are not connected until later development. The eyes initially face lateral during the embryonic period. As the fetus develops, the eyes move inward and end up about 40 mm apart facing anterior on the baby's face.

„In utero, eyelids remain closed until about the 26th week. However, the fetus is sensitive to light, responding to light with heart rate accelerations to projections of light on the abdomen. This can even serve as a test of well-being before birth. Although it cannot be explained easily, prenates with their eyelids still fused seem to be using some aspect of "vision" to detect the location of needles entering the womb, either shrinking away from them or turning to attack the needle barrel with a fist (Birnholz, Stephens, and Faria, 1978). Similarly, at 20 weeks g.a., twins in utero have no trouble locating each other and touching faces or holding hands!” (Chamberlain, D.B.)

At the time of birth, vision is perfectly focused from 8 to 12 inches, the distance to a mother's face when feeding at the breast. Full-term newborns have impressive visual resources including acuity and contrast sensitivity, refraction and accommodation, spacial vision, binocular function, distance and depth perception, color vision, and sensitivity to flicker and motion patterns (Atkinson and Braddick, 1982). Their eyes search the environment day and night, showing curiosity and basic form perception without needing much time for practice (Slater, Mattock, Brown, and Gavin, 1991).

„The human baby (after birth) takes about two years to develop a dominant eye (when the brain ceases to accept synapses from one eye). Oculo-motor skills are important in visual development. Oculomotor skills allow the infant's eyes to move smoothly and track objects. O'Rahilly &Muller (1996) tracked fetal eye movements during the fetal period using ultrasound. This is important to the developing fetus, as oculo-motor skills allow the baby to watch and visually track moving objects, people and light. At birth, visual tracking is jerky. However, by three months it becomes smooth and coordinated.”(Foster, S., Verny, T.R., 2007)


„The determination of when and how a neonate begins to hear was accomplished by using two primary methods. First, sound was transmitted through air by attaching a loud speaker to the mother's abdomen using a rubber or foam ring. The other method transmitted sound to the mother's abdomen by an oscillatory source (sound vibrator or tuning fork) placed near the fetus' head (Lecanuet, 1995). Ultrasound measured the fetus' motor responses, cardiac acceleration changes, and ontogeny of responses. By measuring the fetus' response, researchers determined when the fetus actually began functional hearing.” (Foster, S., Verny, T.R., 2007)

The future ears begin to differentiate starting at three and a half weeks after fertilization. „Researchers in Belfast have demonstrated that reactive listening begins at 16 weeks g.a., two months sooner than other types of measurements indicated. Working with 400 fetuses, researchers in Belfast beamed a pure pulse sound at 250-500 Hz and found behavioral responses at 16 weeks g.a.--clearly seen via ultrasound (Shahidullah and Hepper, 1992). This is especially significant because reactive listening begins eight weeks before the ear is structurally complete at about 24 weeks. These findings indicate the complexity of hearing, lending support to the idea that receptive hearing begins with the skin and skeletal framework, skin being a multireceptor organ integrating input from vibrations, thermo receptors, and pain receptors. This primal listening system is then amplified with vestibular and cochlear information as it becomes available. With responsive listening proven at 16 weeks, hearing is clearly a major information channel operating for about 24 weeks before birth.(Chamberlain, D.B.)

Hearing from a neurological perspective begins halfway through the pregnancy (O’Rahilly & Muller, 2001). By four to five months of gestation, the eighth cranial nerve develops and carries auditory information from the ear to the brain. The most consistent sounds or rhythms present in the embryo/fetal environment are the mother’s heartbeat and her voice. Many studies now confirm that voices reach the womb, rather than being overwhelmed by the background noise created by the mother and placenta.


Taste buds emerge on the tongue around eight weeks’ gestation, and by thirteen weeks these buds are formed in the mouth. By the fourth month of gestation, the fetus can taste the amniotic fluid, which biases the fetus for future taste preferences (Hill et al., 2001).

„Tests show that swallowing increases with sweet tastes and decreases with bitter and sour tastes. In the liquid womb space, a range of tastes are presented including lactic, pyruvic, and citric acids, creatinine, urea, amino acids, proteins and salts.” (Chamberlain, D.B.)


Is olfaction possible in utero, even though there is no air or breathing? The early nasal structures form between six to eight weeks. The nostrils form around seven weeks (Blechschmidt & Gasser, 2012). The olfactory bulbs separate from the nasal cavity and the facial bones during the thirteenth week. The olfactory sense is almost fully mature at the end of the embryonic stage. By the end of the first trimester, the main olfactory subsystem is anatomically mature and can carry out sensory performance.

Many chemical compounds can cross the placenta to join the amniotic fluid, providing the fetus with tastes and odors. The fetus has access to an average of 120 odiferous compounds in utero, and learns to react to them (Schaal et al., 1995). The amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus bathes the oral, nasal, and pharyngeal cavities, and babies breathe it and swallow it, permitting direct access to receptors of several chemosensory systems: taste buds in three locations, olfactory epithelia, vomeronasal system, and trigeminal system (Smotherman and Robinson, 1995).

Touch (Tactile) Awareness

„The tactile system is the earliest system to develop in utero. It is also the most mature sensory system at birth (Kandel, Schwartz, & Jessel, 2000, as cited in Foster and Verny, 2007). By five weeks, the embryo senses pressure to its lips and nose. Cutaneous sensory receptors appear in the embryo in the seventh week of gestation. At nine weeks, the fetus’ arms, chin, and eyelids also sense pressure. By ten weeks, the legs sense pressure. At fourteen weeks, most of the body responds to touch. Sensory receptors spread to all fetal cutaneous and mucosal surfaces by twenty weeks’ gestation. During the third trimester tactile sensors in the skin become wired into the insular cortex of the brain. It is here where the prenate and baby can respond to the context of the touch (Olausson et al., 2002). The last area in the body to develop a sense of tactile awareness is the back and top of the head, which does not develop until soon after birth. Elliot (1999) observes that this may help decrease the perception of pain during labor and birth.” (Weinstein, A. 2016)

The tactile system also provides the baby the ability to discriminate. This ability becomes more developed over time after birth. Babies learn to distinguish deep pressure, light touch and precise location of touch through experience. This discriminative capacity is important for functional manipulation of objects (Williamson &Anzalone, 2001).

Body position (Proprioception)

„Proprioception is “the felt-sense of the location and relative position of different parts of the body in relation to objects and individuals” (Fogel, 2009, p. 83). It allows for a continuous internal awareness of body posture. Proprioceptors are found in the muscles, tendons, and joints. As they develop, so does proprioception. Because fetuses make eleven basic movement patterns, it is likely that one function of such fetal movements is to practice proprioception. [...] In this way, it is possible that the normal prenatal development of proprioception builds a foundation for accurate interoceptive awareness after birth and over the life span.” (Weinstein, A. 2016)

Movement Awareness (Vestibular System)

Balance and equilibrium begins to emerge at five weeks gestation (Larson, 2001). „Between seven and 14 weeks, axonal fibers form the tiny hairs in the ears. These cilia support neuronal connections and provide movement information to the brain (Tsiaras, 2002). The vestibular nerve is myelinated first; however, this is a slow process and will continue into puberty. By five months gestation, the vestibular system is in place and functioning. This rapid maturity leaves the vestibular system more vulnerable to damage than the other sensory systems (Elliot, 1999). The vestibular system also is responsible for self-soothing. The vestibular system allows the neonate to recognize rocking and bouncing. If vestibular development is dysfunctional or disrupted, deficits may lead to attention and perceptual abnormalities, learning disorders and emotional problems (Elliot, 1999) In addition, the vestibular system helps an infant maintain and transition between states of alertness. It is also partially responsible for emotional regulation.”(Foster, S., Verny, T.R., 2007)


„Fogel explains that interoception is involved in embodied self-awareness—“sensing our breathing, digestion, hunger, arousal, pain, emotion, fatigue” and the “body schema—an awareness of the movement and coordination between different parts of the body and between our body and the environment” (2009, p. 11). Fogel notes that embodied self-awareness begins during the last two months of the third trimester of pregnancy. Fetal self-awareness involves both interoception and body schema. Fogel reports on dynamic four-dimensional ultrasound research films taken in the seventh month of gestation (Myowa- Yamakoshi and Takeshita, 2006). These films show the fetal mouth opening in anticipation, if the hand approaches the mouth. Fogel notes this as evidence that one part of the body recognizes its relation to another part.”(Weinstein, A. 2016)

Babies in the new paradigm are developing their mental, emotional and spiritual bodies in correlation with the physical one. Babies are not just bodies, they are expressive, are affected by the interactions with us, are sensing pain, are capable to learn and to store memories, are showing their preferences, are making their own choices, are developing deeply embedded beliefs, are having a sens of self & awareness and consciousness.

Babies Are Expressive (types of communication)

Babies are experts in body language, expressing themselves in „the form of movement, facial expressions, hand and finger signals, leg kicks, and a full range of vocal signals.

Modern ultrasound shows us how soon the fetus goes into action moving all parts of the body in a voluntary (not reactive), spontaneous (not stereotyped), and graceful (not reflexive) way. This is a continuous form of body language with rolls, head-turning, waving, kicking, flexing the back, neck, and feet for up to seven minutes at a stretch. This self-initiated activity continues, with brief rest periods and as space permits, from the twelfth week on through gestation. Fingers (which will play such a big part in communication later) are busy playing with the mouth and umbilical cord. (Chamberlain, D.B.)

„The organs of human communicative expression and sensitivity are elaborated by the early foetal stage, at 60 days, before the central nervous system is active. The special visceral efferent nuclei of the brain stem, which regulate eye movements, facial expressions and vocalizations of an infant, and of an adult, are well-formed in the brain of a 50 day human embryo.” (Trevarthen, C. 2010)

„By twenty-six weeks the fetus has accomplished a ballet-like longitudinal roll. This trick is added to somersaults and other kinesthetic activities learned in the aquatic environment. When it comes to kicking and squirming it may express a preference for the music that is playing, resentment of a bright light aimed at the womb, or be a perfectly friendly response to a "Kick Game" being encouraged by parents. Probably the first evidence of emotion can be seen in squinting and scowling around twelve weeks (g.a.) and a sneer-like dissatisfaction at fourteen weeks.14” (Chamberlain, D.B.)

Using neural patterns of language, emotional context for phonological rhythms, tones and sequences of the mother's speech, the fetus typically discerns their mother's voice during the third trimester (Hartman &Zimberoff, 2002). Elliot (1999) illustrated how the fetus habituates to sound, develops a conditioned response, increases arousal levels and demonstrates interest to novel noises. Elliot also identified how the most important sound to the fetus is the mother's voice. The mother's voice brings pleasure to the fetus, so the fetus responds, and begins interacting with her voice.(Foster, S., Verny, T.R., 2007)

„After birth, of course, we have many more opportunities to observe facial expressions. Mothers and fathers have reported seeing these expressions: interest and joy (noted by 95%), anger (78%), distress (65%), surprise (68%), sadness and disgust (40%). Emotion is another one of the baby's "universal" languages. Researchers have filmed babies going from pleasure to rage in 30 seconds. Baby faces can instantly mimic adult emotional faces expressing sadness, happiness, and surprise. Another time to see a range of baby feelings is while they are asleep and dreaming. Observers report seeing looks of perplexity, disdain, and fright along with writhing movements of the torso, limbs, and digits as if having bad dreams. They also see smiles and looks of mild amusement, as in pleasant dreams. Premature babies dream more than anybody else and show the most smiles in their dreams, along with frowns, writhing finger movements, neck stretches, mouth movements, and vocalizations. We have learned from ultrasound that the beginning of REM/dreaming activity is at twenty-three weeks, meaning that this form of creative expression continues for up to seventeen weeks in utero.” (Chamberlain, D.B.)

Babies are affected by their interactions with us

„One of the stubborn myths about babies is that they live in isolated splendor, preoccupied with themselves, and unaffected by experience. In the age of drugs, toxic materials and pollutants we have been forced to recognize that babies in the womb are not only suffering physically from their interactions with us but they are interacting emotionally and mentally as well.” (Chamberlain, D.B.)

Prenatal Interactions. The fetus is preparing to deal with environmental stress early in its development: beta endorphins, a prime resource for responding to stress, are already in production by 7 weeks of gestational age, and are present in the fetal pituitary before 15 weeks (Facchinetti et al., 1987). We will see that the fetus is highly and immediately responsive to stress in its environment, which consists primarily of the mother’s body, emotions, and beliefs.(Hartman D., Zimberoff D, 2002)

„...the prenate and its capacity over the course of prenatal development to to perceive, experience, respond to and interact with the internal and external environment .” (Weinstein, A. 2016) Prenates react to medical interventions with accelerated heart activity, turning, or moving away (ex. the reactions to amniocentesis). When babies are awaiting ultrasound for amniocentesis they are more active than when waiting for routine ultrasound.

In the womb, interactions are constant and relationships are everything. Babies and mothers eat, sleep, exercise, smoke, get sick, and take drugs together resulting in an intense rapport.

Therapists are discovering more cases of the "vanishing twin," where psychological problems trace back to the experience of loss (consciously forgotten) of a twin in utero. (Chamberlain, D.B.)

Newborns are interacting also. „Babies interact by scanning the environment, tracking slowly moving objects, showing special interest in faces, and attempting to reach, contact, and grasp things of interest. In a hostile environment, newborns will defend themselves: The opposite leg will come up to defend another being pricked by a pin, arms are raised to strike and push away pressure on the chin. If things get worse, newborns know how to retreat and calm themselves using sleep, suckling, and by going into a trance.

Newborns have a strong attraction to people, faces, and voices, especially those of their parents. They are born already having learned their mother's voice and to an extent her "mother tongue" both of which they seem to prefer.

It takes only minutes of exposure for newborns to learn their mother's face. Within minutes of birth, babies can recognize and imitate manual and facial gestures and emotional expressions.

Out of the womb, infants continue to synchronize their own behavior with adult behavior, as can be seen when breastfeeding, when making contact by gaze and touch with parents; while listening to human speech; and in using up movements to judge which voices and faces go together. Synchronous behavior is a complex interactive skill requiring interest, keen perception, and self control.” (Chamberlain, D.B.)

Babies are sensing pain

The research findings (Anand, 1986; Anand & Aynsley-Green, 1985; Anand & Hickey, 1987) demonstrated that infants perceive pain, need anesthesia, and tolerate it well. Anand and Hickey explain that “pain pathways, as well as cortical and subcortical centers necessary for pain perception are well developed late in gestation, and the neurochemical systems now known to be associated with pain transmission and modulation are intact and functional”. Anand notes: “Based on the available scientific evidence, we cannot dismiss the high likelihood of fetal pain perception before the third trimester of human gestation” (2005, p. 6). In addition, Olausson et al., (2002), demonstrated that the fetus and infant are capable of distinguishing the context of touch that they receive as pleasant or unpleasant via specialized nerve receptors in the skin that project to the insular cortex. (Weinstein, A. 2016)

When prenates experience pain, they do not have the air necessary to make sound, but they do respond with vigorous body and breathing movements as well as hormonal rushes. Within ten minutes of needling a fetus's intrahepatic vein for a transfusion, a fetus shows a 590% rise in beta endorphin and a 183% rise in cortisol--chemical evidence of pain (Giannakoulopoulos, 1994).

Babies are capable of learning

The unborn human develops the capacity to respond to the environment almost immediately upon conception and learn from these interactions. The central nervous system’s limbic system is partially mature at 4 weeks of gestation and fully formed by the third trimester of prenatal life (Pert, 1987; Pert et al., 1985). (Hartman D., Zimberoff D, 2002)

Rather than verbal and cognitive, this learning is nonverbal, probably biochemical as well as neural, and is stored as cellular or procedural rather than explicit memory.” (Doughty, Frances McCulloch, 2007)

„Associations formed in utero can alter subsequent fetal behavior and are retained into postnatal life. The evidence for direct and indirect learning of odors in utero has been reviewed by Schaal, Orgeur, and Rogan (1995). In formal experiments prenates have demonstrated learning by classical conditioning. More often, in experiments using the habituation paradigm prenates show learning by distinguishing between novel and familiar stimuli.”(Chamberlain, D.B.)

Formal demonstrations of newborn learning and memory are abundant including classical conditioning, operant learning and habituation learning.

Babies are capable to store memories

With the capacity to respond comes the ability to store experiences in memory for future use. Bruce Lipton (2001) discusses the way that human beings, from conception throughout life, process incoming environmental information and store the results in the membrane of cells. These stored memories he calls learned perceptions, and they are outward directed how we respond to environmental stimuli.

„These deeply embedded and unconscious memories might be conceptualized neurobiologically as cellular memories. In Verny’s (Verny & Weintraub, 2002, p. 159) words, “Before our children have even rudimentary brains, they are gathering within the cells of their bodies their first memories.” Graham Farrant (1985), an Australian medical doctor, referred to recollections of prenatal events as cellular memory. Buchheimer (1987) argues that cellular memories, i.e., records of precognitive experience dispersed throughout the bodymind (Pert, 1987), are retained in perpetuity. This conclusion is supported by other researchers (Achterberg,1994; Rossi & Cheek, 1988; Woody, 1986). Anthony Lake (1980), a British psychiatrist, found that prenatal memories stemmed from viral cells, that viruses were primitive prenatal cells that formed during trauma and carried traumatic memories. He, too, referred to prenatal memories in terms of cellular memory. (Hartman D., Zimberoff D, 2002)

Recent research (Marquez, 2000) supports the capacity of the prenate to store very early traumatic experience in the bodymind (Pert’s terminology), expressed permanently in psychosomatic conditions. The capacity to respond and remember carries with it, by definition, the ability to make decisions and choices (Hull, 1986; Lake, 1982). (Hartman D., Zimberoff D, 2002)The limbic system records the emotions and behaviors necessary for survival, and is critically involved with the storage and retrieval of memory (van der Kolk, 1996). The cerebral cortex, the highest level of brain functioning, has been found operative by 32 weeks of gestation (Purpura,1975; Vaughn, 1975), although it is far from fully functional.

The most striking example of how babies learn from experience is how they remember their own birth. This display of cognition is conclusively validated by innocent children just learning to talk. Their spontaneous memories are accurate, cogent, and intelligently critical of how things were done at birth; they demonstrate understanding of human relationships and character, precocious comprehension of language, and reveal that babies use altered states of consciousness much as we do. None of this was expected. (Chamberlain, D.B.)

Babies are showing preferences

By 23 weeks gestation, the fetus responds to sound and will indicate sound preferences. A baby as early as 26 weeks gestation learns intonation, rhythm, and other speech patterns of the mother's voice. By 34 weeks gestation, the auditory threshold levels are similar to adult preferences. This allows the fetus to develop selective preferences for specific sounds. (Foster, S., Verny, T.R., 2007)

The fetus tastes the amniotic fluid during the fourth month. The amniotic fluid biases the fetus for future taste preferences (Hill, 2001). Tests made at birth reveal exquisite taste discrimination and definite preferences.

Acquisition of the neonatal odor preferences is observed shortly after birth. Schaal, Orgeur, and Rognon (1995) exposed babies who were born prematurely to odors and observed oral, facial, and general motor activity.

Dreaming is also an endogenous activity, neither reactive or evoked, expressing inner mental or emotional conditions. Dreaming is a vigorous activity involving apparently coherent movements of the face and extremities in synchrony with the dream itself, manifested in markedly pleasant or unpleasant expressions. Observers say babies (are dreaming as early as 23 weeks g.a.when rapid eye movement sleep is first observed -Birnholz, 1981) behave like adults do when they are dreaming (Roffwarg, Muzio, and Dement 1966).

Babies make their own choices

For Farrant, though the fertilized egg is strongly influenced by the mother’s psyche, it also has its own feelings. He states that he has worked with many, but not all, of his clients who have experienced this kind of stopping, sensing the environment, and making decisions about living (Raymond,1988). McCarty (2002) has also suggested that babies, far from being passive, make their own choices about their life and attitudes towards themselves and others, from conception onwards. (Claudette Nantel )

Babies develop deeply embedded beliefs

„In the words of one researcher (McCarty, 2002, p. 341), “I have been fascinated with how the blueprint of core beliefs is already actively shaping babies’ lives in terms of their physical structure, physiology, their relationship to self, others, and to the world as well.” Those beliefs, absorbed from the womb environment, are embedded and expressed in the body, on a micro level in the cells and on a macro level as well. The core beliefs, what eventually mature into internal working models, may be centered around fear, separation, violence, constriction, mistrust, unworthiness, confusion, or dissociation. McCarty (2002, p. 357) continues, “Although these early belief blueprints can become entrenched and continue for a lifetime, when brought to awareness and worked with directly, they are quite changeable.” (Hartman D., Zimberoff D, 2002)

Babies are having a sense of self and awareness

„The development of a sense of self can be viewed as being like an everexpanding sphere, starting with the prenatal psyche-soma and the physiological core of hormonal and other exchanges between prenate/ infant and mother, adding new layers as the infant/child continues to develop new capabilities (emotional/limbic maturity, ego and selfawareness, awareness of others, cognition, boundaries, somatic awareness, etc.), eventually resulting, if all goes well, in a multivalent, nuanced individual who interweaves transmission and reception with other selves in a similarly expanding and deepening intersubjective field, in all the modalities an individual is capable of (Trevarthen, 1993).” (Doughty, Frances McCulloch, 2007)

„As early as 13 weeks gestational age, the fetus is showing individual behavior and personality traits that continue on after birth (Piontelli, 1992). She observed four sets of twins by ultrasound periodically over the course of the pregnancies. Each set of twins seemed to manifest a unique relationship together: one set was loving, another contentious, and another was passive. One pair consisted of a brother who was active, attentive, and affectionate, and his sister who would passively follow his lead. Piontelli conducted follow-up observation of the four sets of twins through age four. She found that behavior after birth for each child, and in the relationship between each set of twins, continued remarkably unchanged.”(Hartman D., Zimberoff D, 2002)

„In utero, vivid awareness is expressed in a range of emotional reactions: during parental intercourse, erections while thumb-sucking, cries in reaction to therapeutic abortion recorded as early as twenty-one weeks, kicking violently at loud concerts and frightening movies, and by "squalling in the womb" in reaction to obstetrical maneuvers close to the time of birth.”(Chamberlain, D.B.)

„The prenates in Piontelli’s study developed characteristic ways of being, e.g., contentious or passive or loving. These behaviors expressed an underlying belief system: perhaps “the mother/ environment is unreliable” leading to self-reliance, or to adaptivity, or to withdrawal; perhaps “the mother/ environment is toxic and confused” leading to powerlessness, or to oppositional reaction. The fetus actually begins the process of moving away from total identification with the mother, and establishing a rudimentary ego differentiation that continues through adolescence. An example is a study (Lieberman, 1963) in which pregnant habituated smokers were forbidden cigarettes for several days. Not only were the prenates reacting to their mothers’ anticipated experience rather than an already accomplished one, they did so with a personal point of view (distressed) rather than simply absorbing the mother’s experience (pleasant) unfiltered.” (Hartman D., Zimberoff D, 2002)

Babies are having consciousness

McCarty describes our consciousness as having two quite different levels: the transcendental and the biological human. The transcendental is a superconscious ever-present Self, an implicit, non- local, nonlinear, holographic aspect of ourselves. It functions as a caring, compassionate witness to our experience, free of strong emotions. Its form of communication is telepathic, mind-to-mind, independent of physical form, yet can be felt in, and connected to, the body. The biological human is more familiar to us: it is an explicit, linear consciousness based in space and time, felt as residing inside the human body and brain, and processes experience through biological human perception and senses. It feels strong emotions and responses, and is fused with the body’s experience and its environment. McCarty (2009) suggests that the Transcendental Self, operating apparently before conception, is our primary awareness, whereas the biological human awareness begins at conception and, as the child grows, this awareness evolves in the developmental sequences familiar in child psychological development. She sees these two sources of awareness coexisting in an Integrated Self. As far as we can observe, the transcendental consciousness is dominant from conception to birth and a little beyond, and the human biological consciousness gradually becomes dominant as the child matures. Like Verny (1982) and Wade (1996), McCarty states that transcendental consciousness does not disappear in later life: though it may seem to be dormant in ordinary life circumstances, its presence often becomes observable when a person is in an altered state of consciousness, induced for example by drugs, intense stress, trauma, near-death experience, psychotherapy, or hypnosis. (Claudette Nantel )

Writing this essay about the new paradigm we see babies I was observing myself searching for new studies and research because the internet and the available books are full of information. We are seeing out there hungry minds to understand the world of the babies and how to use this information to live in more healthy and happy societies. All the information is available, but will it be used? We'll have the patience and the trust to see what the future will bring. Until then, I will like to close with two quotes.

This knowledge that it is our experiences, particularly our early experiences, which have the strongest influence on our values and relationships to others, has not yet become part of our culture. Although it has long been understood that children are the adults of tomorrow and that it matters how we bring them up, in societal terms, we are still not taking the impact of early childhood seriously enough. We have not yet achieved the same degree of recognition that it is the pre-verbal stage in particular that shapes our values. There are still too many people who think that behavior towards babies has no impact because babies ‘don’t understand’ or ‘won’t remember.’ (Sue Gerhardt, in her book The Selfish Society)

In the future, let us speak of their intelligence, rather than their brains. In closing, infants are much more than we thought. Nineteenth century science was materialistic in viewing the baby as a body, brain, and reflex material. The 21st century view of babies will, I believe, focus on their sensations, emotions, sense of self, personality, communication ability, mind, and consciousness. This major paradigm shift is urgently needed. (Chamberlain, D.B.)


1. Chamberlain, D. (1999). Babies are not what we thought: Call for a new paradigm. Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health 14(½) 127-144.

2. Weinstein, A. (2016). Prenatal development and parents' lived experiences: How early events shape our psychophysiology and relationships (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). NY: Norton Press.

3. Foster, S.; Verny, T. (2007). The Development of Sensory Systems During the Prenatal Period. Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health 21. 3 (Spring 2007): 271-280.

4. Chamberlain, D..The Fetal Senses: A Classical View, From Life Before Birth. The Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health

5. Doughty, F. (2007). Sending and Receiving: Biochemical Communication of Emotions Between Prenate and Mother: A Call for Early Intervention. Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health 21. 3 (Spring 2007): 281-303.

6. Hartman, D.; Zimberoff, D. (2002). Memory Access to our Earliest Influences. Journal of Heart- Centered Therapies, 2002, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 3-63

7. Verny, T. (2014). What Cells Remember: Toward A Unified Field Theory Of Memory. Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health 29.1 (October 2014): 16-27

8. Trevarthen, C. (2010). What Is It Like To Be a Person Who Knows Nothing? - Defining the Active Intersubjective Mind of a Newborn Human Being. Infant and Child Development, Special Issue, Edited by Emese Nagy

9. Nantel, C. (2017). Reflections of a Psychotherapist on Human Conception. Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health 31.4 (June 2017): 272-290

10. Wilks, J. (2015). Choices in Pregnancy and Childbirth-A Guide to Options for Health Professionals, Midwives, Holistic Practitioners, and Parents

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