Skin to skin contact is big news at the moment. It was part of my birth plan, but it wasn’t something that I gave much thought to. I thought it would keep baby warm and would be a good way to bond while getting in some cute cuddles with the wrinkly little fella! The trend for fathers to get in on the skin to skin action made it seem even more like a bonding ritual, rather than an essential, natural process that was intended by nature.
If you haven’t heard of it, skin to skin contact is as it sounds…One (or more than one, I guess) newly birthed, vernix covered baby, is placed immediately onto mothers bare skin, usually the abdomen while the cord is still attached. Baby is left like this for as long as possible without interruption, no clean up, no weigh in and no passing around!! There should be no rush to get baby to latch on to the breast, especially for a full term healthy baby, and any measurements or injections can usually wait for a couple of hours. It should just be a time of peace, calm and relaxation.
The idea is that the recognition of scents, sights and sounds exchanged between mum and baby trigger all manner of hormones and reactions which in turn give baby a really good foot in the door of life!
Of course dads can enjoy skin to skin too. It can be an amazing, bonding, calming and regulating experience for baby, while also giving dad a chance to learn to recognise hunger cues or distress.
Some of the benefits are more obvious than others, but with the help of UNICEF and The Baby Friendly Initiative I have listed some of the documented benefits of skin to skin contact.
- It helps to calm mother and baby, and relax them after the shock of birth.
- It regulates baby’s temperature.
- It regulates baby’s heart rate and breathing.
- It stimulates baby’s digestive system.
- It helps stimulate breastfeeding hormones which in turn should have a hand in establishing milk supply in the future.
- Baby’s skin can be colonised with all of the friendly bacteria from mum. This helps fight infection in the future.
- It triggers baby’s natural feeding instinct, baby will slowly and surely make his way to the breast, sniff and nuzzle it, and finally latch on to it!!
Skin to skin for premature or caesarean section babies.
As with delayed cord clamping, skin-to skin contact is even more vital for babies born in distress, or born early or born via caesarean section. They can all still benefit from the unique nurturing of skin to skin contact.
There are exceptions, where intervention is necessary and the safety of baby has to come first…But skin to skin contact is still compatible even with the tiniest of preterm babies, and it is beneficial even if the window is missed in the first hour of life.
The neonatal unit to which I donated my breast milk (read more here), actively support kangaroo care…Parent and baby are encouraged to spend as much time as possible chest to chest, against the warmth and comfort of each other. The support staff make every effort to ensure any tubes and monitors are incorporated into the kangaroo care of the teeny preemies. It was such a special sight to behold, empty incubators and a truly peaceful environment for them to recover.
My own skin to skin wishes didn’t go quite to plan…mainly because I was still fully clothed when the little guy decided to make his appearance sooner than expected. We got there eventually, and he stayed there while I delivered the placenta naturally. Instead of knowing his instincts would lead him in his own time to find his milk, I was really concerned that he wasn’t feeding and I asked the midwife to position him and help him latch on. Writing this article, I realise now, if the path is clear his instincts would have led him there, there really was no need for me to rush it.
Have you heard of skin to skin contact, did you request it at after giving birth and did you love the experience??? Let me know…
If you enjoyed this article have a look at my post on the virgin gut.
- In praise of Kangaroo care for premature infants (kevinmd.com)
- Kangaroo Time!! (tinybutmightyblog.com)
- Back to the Basics (goerie.com)
- Mother Brings Baby Back to Life With Two Hours Of Loving Cuddles After Doctors Pronounce Him Dead (realnewsreporter.com)