“… When a child is born, a mother and a father are also born …”Interview with Dr. Maddalena Saccoccio
Doing some research I read about the neuropsychomotricist Maddalena Saccoccio … “specialized in the age group 0-3 years, I mainly deal with problems related to the motor, communication and relational sphere, … practices and therapies that have in common the aim of facilitating the relationship, the attachment between the newborn and their parents or those who take care of them, favoring the individual well-being and of the entire family nucleus and to prevent subsequent difficulties and disorders of various kinds “…
It intrigues me a lot and the words “skin to skin” that I often find when reading about her, convince me to want to ask her a few questions.
What is the basis of your professional intervention?
At the base of everything there is certainly the interest in new lives, for newborns and for the relationship between them and parents or caregivers (who takes care of them) since a good attachment relationship is very important for correct brain development, emotional and relational of each individual.
By facilitating and supporting the relationship through skin-to-skin contact, infant massage and through the gentle and non-invasive touch of the various practices, the well-being of the little ones and the whole family is promoted.
Our little ones are the society of tomorrow.
All the respect and love we give them today have benefits for everyone in the “here and now”, but they will also remain over the years, growing safer and more affectionate human beings towards others.
Looking to the future, the hope is therefore to promote a less suffering and more empathic society, where one is able to create healthy relationships.
Can we explain, thanks also to the support of science that tells us that the skin and the nervous system originate from the same embryonic sheet, how much and why is contact between human beings so important, especially in the early stages of life?
There is a very close connection between the skin organ, because in addition to containing all the organs it is itself an organ, and our brain.
All the tactile information that we receive from embryonic life, already with the amniotic fluid and then with contact, warmth and loving care, arrives through the receptors placed on our skin directly to our nervous system, nourishing and supporting development of all its areas.
In the absence of contact, a newborn may even decide to let himself die.
He depends entirely on the adult and the exchange that takes place with him will feed his body, his mind and his heart.
In the period, which goes from birth to about 9 months of life, it is important to offer everything that he received in utero: warmth, containment, nourishment, love, to ensure that, in addition to optimal brain development, an adequate development of safety and security is associated self-esteem in order to then become a more autonomous and independent adult.
Studies show how, for example in preterm births, contact and warmth with reference figures can support and encourage them in dealing with this situation, reaching optimal saturation levels and shorter residence times in Neonatal Intensive Care, as well as a better visual development.
What could be the difficulties and disorders of various kinds that could arise after a shortage of this type?
The difficulties and ailments are varied, from the mildest to the most serious.
A lack or deficiency of this could lead to hyperexcitability, easy irritability and motor agitation even in the subsequent stages of development, interference in the mother-baby relationship, difficulty in the sleep-wake rhythm. Sleep in children is very important because it is during this phase that numerous brain connections are created which then regulate the entire development in all its areas: cognitive, motor, emotional and relational.
Severe lack of contact can also lead to intellectual deficiencies due to the deprivation of stimuli necessary and fundamental for proper development.
What difficulties arise most from parents?
Very often the difficulties are linked to one’s own expectations and / or those of others and to the continuous unsolicited advice from everyone from the very first months.
When a child is born, a mother is born and a father is born and everyone is called to carry out a new task to which they are not used to and need to experiment and enter into a relationship with this new part, looking for their way, always respecting themselves and your child.
Often, for fear of making mistakes, parents tend to listen to what is said from all possible sources, to follow fixed methods, losing listening to themselves and not paying attention to their children’s non-verbal signals.
Each child knows perfectly what he needs and makes it understood through non-verbal communication (smile, cry, look, vocalize, muscle tone).
Often the tiredness and the lack of adequate support or the lack of confrontation between new mothers and new fathers who live the same experiences (even considering this particular period of pandemic) lead to difficulties in listening to what is often already under their eyes.
Fundamental is the help of the partner who goes to encourage and support the new mother, who is physiologically in a moment of profound change and turmoil, inside and out.
What other support figures can intervene in problems of this type?
There are many figures who can facilitate and support children and families with difficulties or problems of this type, but all should have that particular triad (mom-dad-child) at the center of their work because each child is inserted in their own family context and it is with that nucleus that we must work together to achieve the objectives set in the best possible way.
Often the initial sending takes place by the pediatrician who has the opportunity to observe the newborn immediately in relation to the mother-child couple or later on the child in its general development.
The support of other figures takes place according to the difficulties or needs of the specific child.
The work, however, is always a team of neuropsychomotricist, speech therapist, craniosacral therapist, osteopath, midwife, psychologist, educators and teachers.
The comparison with Maddalena, so full of stimuli, that I personally thank him for having accepted to tell us about his work, suggested some reflections:
radical and sudden changes occur at birth; biological homeostasis – present when the fetus was still in the maternal womb, which allowed a balance despite external variations – no longer exists.
The newborn will then seek that feeling of protection, care and calm in the relationship with another human being; it is therefore essential not to disappoint this expectation so that the child can develop in a healthy way.
I also think that it is only from birth, that is with the formation of a psychic reality, that it is possible to speak of “love”; the newborn, no longer a fetus, will immediately seek in the relationship with a human being that calm, security and love which, in the previous exclusively biological reality, found an equivalent in the contact of his skin with the amniotic fluid.
It seems fair to me to consider that through this “skin to skin” contact the newborn perceives (beyond the contact itself) the internal reality of those who take care of him; this relationship will be decisive, therefore, to ensure that the child feels loved and capable of loving.
And this connects me to what is written on this blog and to the fundamental importance of taking care of the little ones and their parents / caregivers from all points of view and with multidisciplinary interventions.