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An Interview with Tony Madrid Ph.D. on the Relationship between Broken Maternal-Infant Bonds and Asthma

David Van Nuys, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 19th 2007

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Tony Madrid, Ph.D.Dr. Madrid's work builds upon the concept of Maternal Infant Bonding, which is a term describing the formation of the relationship between mother and infant. The quality of this relationship seems to have influence over not only mother and infant's emotional lives, but also on infants physical and health status. For instance, mother's tendency towards neglect or abuse of their infant seems to be influenced by the quality of this bonding, as does their lactation, and also infant's health conditions such as asthma may be affected as well. The term was first proposed by Marshall H. & Kennell and John H. Klaus in their 1976 book by the same name.

Dr. Madrid notes that there has long been a hypothesized relationship between maternal characteristics and childhood asthma, where mothers were blamed for contributing to asthma because they acted distant, angry or over controlling towards their child. He suggests that the relationship between material treatment of children and asthma is real and related to increased stress levels experienced by unbonded maternal infant pairs, but that blaming mothers for feeling this way is misplaced. Bonding problems are not the fault of the mother, but rather of circumstance that introduces distance between the mother and infant at the time of birth.

Dr. Madrid became interested in Maternal Infant Bonding after working with a mother of a child with asthma who reported feeling distant and detached from that child. He did a hypnotic induction with the mother and worked with her to imagine a better birth scenario. She later reported that she felt more loving towards her child and that the child's asthma was markedly improved. Since that first patient years ago, Dr. Madrid has developed a treatment protocol for repairing maternal infant bonding problems, and has also worked towards a research program to explore the nature of how disrupted bonds influence infant health. Current research suggests that separation of mothers from infants at the time of birth increases the chance that bonding will be problematic. Separation can be literally physical in nature, such as when a baby is removed from the mother's care for medical reasons, or it can be emotional in nature, such as when the mother is preoccupied with other pressing emotionally intense events such as depression or grief. Treatment of the mother tends to help clear up asthma in children up to about age 10. Older children's asthma is less effected. He will be doing research next year where they measure children's Immunoglobin E (a marker for allergy and stress), both before and after mother's treatment. They hope to show that children's Immunoglobin E levels decrease after mother's treatment.

Dr. Madrid's treatment basically consists of the use of clinical hypnosis and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) to break up lingering traumas that mothers have experienced which have interfered with their ability to bond with their children, and to use hypnosis to help mothers re-imagine the birth scenario in a more positive, connected light.

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About Tony Madrid, Ph.D.

Tony Madrid, Ph.D.

Tony Madrid, Ph.D. is the director of Russian River Counselors in Sonoma County, California. He has been a psychologist for 35 years, starting as a child psychologist for Sonoma County Mental Health. He was the director of The Erickson Institute in Santa Rosa California. He directed the Inpatient Program at Pocket Ranch Institute in Geyserville, California which was an alternative program to traditional hospitalization. He has been on the faculty of The University of San Francisco for 25 years. He was a Member of California's Board of Psychology. He is a Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation. His area of research is maternal-infant bonding and childhood asthma, for which he received the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis Hilgard Award for scientific excellence in writing on pediatric/adolescent use of hypnosis.

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