Friday, March 21, 2008


Mamatoto is a Swahili word meaning "motherbaby"--reflecting the concept that mother and infant are not two separate people, but an interrelated dyad. What impacts one impacts the other and what is good for one is good for the other. The midwifery and birth communities have used this concept for quite some time and more recently some maternal health researchers have also referenced the idea of the "maternal nest" (that even following birth, the mother is the baby's "habitat").

Reflecting this inseparable connection between mothers and babies and the birth-breastfeeding continuum, the International MotherBaby Childbirth Initiative launched at CIMS in Florida this year (preliminary work towards the Initiative began in 2006). Since 1996, there has been International Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative and there is also the WHO/UNICEF Baby Friend Hospital Initiative. The term MotherBaby was chosen for the new Initiative "to draw attention to the mother and baby as one integral unit, a dyad that should not be separated, and because the IMBCI places a great deal of emphasis on the impact of birth practices on breastfeeding....The instrumental purpose of the IMBCI 10 Steps is to put into worldwide awareness and practice the MotherBaby model of care--a woman-centered, non-interventive approach that promotes the health and wellbeing of all women and babies during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, setting the gold standard for excellence and superior outcomes in maternity care."

Reading about these initiatives reminds me of a quote from a Midwifery Today editorial by Jan Tritten:

"You will have ideas, options and paths to ponder, but you will also have a sense of possible directions to take as you consider midwifery, childbirth education, or being a doula or an activist. Your path may be circular or straight, but meanwhile you can serve motherbaby while on the path, with a destination clearly in mind." She also says, "I use the word midwife to refer to all birth practitioners. Whether you are a mother, doula, educator, or understanding doctor or nurse you are doing midwifery when you care for motherbaby."

As long as I'm discussing the concepts of motherbaby and mamatoto, I wanted to mention a really interesting book called Mamatoto: A Celebration of Birth published by The Body Shop in the 1990's. This book is a fascinating look at birth around the world. Lots of great photos and content that you do not find anywhere else!

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