The mums who don't let anybody hold their babies - not even family

'I just knew': Alicia Waite Cahill with baby Evelyn.
'I just knew': Alicia Waite Cahill with baby Evelyn.  Photo: Supplied

It has lead to fractured families and awkward conversations with friends, but a growing group of new mums are insisting they be the only ones to hold their new babies in the days and weeks following birth.

Alicia Waite Cahill, 29, a midwife from Brisbane, had her first daughter four months ago but had already decided before she was born, she didn't want anyone holding her.

"I just knew from seeing the babies get passed around like parcels at work and when she was born my maternal instincts just kicked in and I wanted her with me," she explains.

Natalie Willmot with Aurora.
Natalie Willmot with Aurora. 

"No one held Evelyn in hospital, only me and my husband and then when we got home I was strict about not having visitors for the first two weeks."

Although Ms Waite Cahill had to have a caesarean, she was given her daughter straight away and had to skin-to-skin contact even while in recovery.  She also asked for them to take all the measurements while Evelyn lay with her.

She advised her family in advance of her wishes and requested no visitors for two weeks.  However, her mother-in-law found it particularly difficult and her husband had to eventually talk to his parents and explain to his mother again why they didn't want her to hold the baby. 

"She abused me on the phone saying she wanted to bond with Evelyn and hold her.  It is not a good relationship with her now.  She doesn't speak to me. 

"The struggle is real as it causes anxiety when people would want to see us, because I knew they would all want a hold and I wouldn't want her to be passed around."

Ms Waite Cahill says it was also vital to keep Evelyn close while she was trying to establish breastfeeding.

Advertisement

When Natalie Willmot, 31, also from Brisbane, arrived at the hospital and midwives announced she was 10cm dilated she screamed: "I want delayed cord clamping, skin to skin and no one touches my baby!"

Ms Willmot did lots of research while pregnant and during a hypnobirthing class learnt about the importance of the fourth trimester and not overloading an infant's nervous system by passing them around.

Her baby, Aurora, was born into her partner's arms and then placed on her chest.

"The midwife wanted to inspect her, and we got upset and my partner yelled at her," Ms Willmot says.

"Within a few minutes she made her way to the breast and started feeding with the cord still attached.  It was amazing.  That experience was out of this world.  Euphoric."

Ms Willmot also insisted doctors wait at least two hours before weighing and doing Apgar scores and this was the only time she allowed Aurora to be held by someone else.

Although her mother has had brief holds of Aurora, Natalie says her wishes have caused ongoing problems between mother and daughter, even seven- and-a-half months on.

"My mum was constantly trying to hold her.  The majority of the time I would say no, and she would get upset.  She stormed off sometimes. 

"Mum says I am extreme and over the top.  They (her family) said they didn't understand why I was like this. We don't get invites to family events now.  At one event everyone was talking about my parenting and said I was ruining her (Aurora's) life and going to create unhealthy attachment."

Midwife and breastfeeding consultant, Dr Robyn Thompson, believes babies should not be held by anyone except the mother for the first three to four days.

She strongly believes as soon as the baby is born it should be placed on the mother and allowed to slowly crawl to the breast.

"They should be with their mother in arms from birth.  Their instinct is high level sensory skills for survival and the baby knows how to go to the mother's breast when ready.

"The first feed and first 72 hours is when milk volume slowly increases.  During this time so many people do so many things which doesn't happen in any other mammal."

Dr Thompson says by taking the baby from the mother the whole breastfeeding process is affected and common complications such as nipple trauma, engorgement and mastitis can arise. 

"It can take them thirty minutes or more to instinctively move on the mother's body towards the breast and work all around the breast and then take the breast themselves.  When not touched by anyone else they feed leisurely and bring down the colostrum.

"Nipple trauma is the most common reason women stop breastfeeding. Nipple trauma was statistically significant in my research when a baby was thrust by the back of the head neck and shoulder onto the mother breast.

"By not separating the baby the engorgement was statistically less."

Dr Thompson said Apgar scores of seven and above mean the baby does not need to be separated from the mum and weighing, rubbing of the baby and bathing can all wait.  Even Vitamin K and Hepatitis B vaccinations don't need to be done immediately and when they are done the baby should remain in the mother's arms.

"Human baby instincts are phenomenal.  The problem is everything is done in such a rush.  You don't need to do anything unless there is a major reason to do it."

Dr Thompson advises women to prepare before the birth with their partner and inform family of their wishes.  She also recommends women complete the gentle birth and breastfeeding plan on her website and speak to the people who will be looking after them about it and have them sign it.

"Women need to know what their rights are," she states.