Mothering the Mother and BondingBy Meri Hanson Levy, CLE, Bonding & Parenting Coach


newborn baby needs parentsWhen I wandered in (a little late) to the presentation by Dr. Klaus to the Lamorinda Moms Club, he was just beginning his discussion. Dr. Klaus appeared to be getting on in years, and I was dreading a dry, spiritless lecture for the next hour and a half.

How wrong I was! As soon as he launched into one of his favorite topics, the amazing abilities of newborn babies, his face came to life. He was even more passionate in discussing the dramatic benefits to both mothers and babies of having a female labor support person, or doula.

His slides showed heart-warming images of laboring women supported by doulas, and brand new babies gazing curiously at their parents' faces. He showed newborns working their way up their mother's bellies to nurse at the breast for the first time, and imitating their parents' facial expressions.

Dr. Marshall H. Klaus is a distinguished Neonatologist, Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF, and has authored or co-authored several wonderful books. His wife Phyllis H. Klaus is a Clinical Social Worker and Master of Family Therapy, who treats women with pre and postnatal concerns.

The Klauses' books currently in print include Your Amazing Newborn, and two books co-authored with John Kennell, M.D.; Bonding, Building the Foundations of Secure Attachment and Independence, and Mothering the Mother: How a Doula Can Help You Have a Shorter, Easier, and Healthier Birth.

Mothering the Mother (c. 1993, Perseus Books) shows how a doula (an experienced labor support person) can ease the birth process. A doula provides continuous emotional support and assistance before, during, and after birth. Through research with over 2,000 new mothers, this book shows that the assistance of a doula can shorten first labors by an average of two hours, cut the rate of cesarean sections by half, and decrease the need for pain medication.

Despite reduced levels of pain medication, the book discusses how the presence of a doula reduced the laboring mother's experience of pain. Most of the doula-assisted mothers in Klaus' research reported that labor was less painful than they had expected, while the majority of unassisted mothers reported that labor was more painful that they had expected.
Interestingly enough, the support of a doula also appeared to have a lasting effect. The doula-assisted mothers had reduced rates of post-partum depression, earlier bonding with their babies and increased rates of breastfeeding success.

Bonding (c. 1995, Perseus Books) presents effective methods for parents to improve the bonding experience between themselves and their babies. The book discusses what parents can do during pregnancy and the magical period during the first hour of life, to lay the foundation for a secure attachment. swaddle newborn baby

Bonding discusses the important issues faced in the first days and weeks after birth, including postpartum depression and the impact of parental expectations. It also discusses overcoming potential barriers to effective bonding, including adoption, premature birth, birth defects, and the impact of parental guilt and anxiety.

Dr. Klaus' most recent work, Your Amazing Newborn (c. 1998, Perseus Books) is a beautiful book about the surprising abilities of newborns. The book is full of incredible black-and-white pictures of new babies displaying their many talents, such as imitating their parents, recognizing familiar images and sounds and creeping up their mother's abdomen to find the breast, in the first hour of life.

Dr. Klaus' presentation and his books have given me a wonderful sense of anticipation regarding the (doula-assisted) birth of my third child. I highly recommend his books to all expectant parents, especially those considering having a doula at their birth. Mothering the Mother, Your Amazing Newborn and Bonding are available at The Nurture Center, among many other books.

Meri Hanson Levy, CLE is a Coach-Parenting™ Certified Coach and Certified Lactation Educator, the mother of three children, as well as the former Executive Director of The Nurture Center. Visit her website at