A Little Bit of Mum’s (and Dad’s, too) Magic: The Importance of Skin to Skin Contact

Moz Screenshot 6 | Xenana Spa | Portland Oregon

by Joanne Edwards

When you have just worked really hard to birth your baby, you are warm and they are a little surprised at their new world, placing them skin to skin will work wonders. Early skin to skin contact begins immediately after birth by placing your naked newborn directly on your bare chest (if you have a top on they can be tucked under it!). A warm blanket can be placed around both of you and everything else can wait or happen while they are here. Dr. Jack Newman (pediatrician and lactation consultant) says, “There is no reason that the vast majority of babies cannot be skin to skin with the mother immediately after birth for at least an hour. Hospital routines, such as weighing the baby, should not take precedence.” If for any reason mum is unable to do skin to skin, then dad or your support person can do it.

Whilst cuddled up to you in skin to skin your baby will be happier, they will be able to take in their new world and bond with you, their parents. From here they can listen to your heartbeat and voice. Their skin and digestive system will become colonized by your bacteria, this is much better than them getting their bacteria from the hospital or other people present. They will have a more stable and normal temperature – mums warm and cool their babies and dads can warm them. Their heart rate and breathing are more normal and stable and their blood sugar will be higher.

With your baby is next to you, you will communicate with each other using all of your senses, this communication will stimulate your baby and encourage them to calmly start their feeding sequence by rooting and searching for the breast. They will show feeding cues, which over the coming weeks you will be more familiar with and with your gentle guidance they will make their way to your breast and feed. Babies who are kept in skin to skin for at least the first hour after birth are more likely to latch without any help and more likely to latch well.

There is a wealth of research to show that the benefits of skin to skin contact last longer than those first hours, in those early weeks it is a wonderful way to calm your baby. Being close to their mum or dad for those first few weeks is the natural habitat for your baby, away from you either separated by distance or by a blanket can leave your newborn showing signs of distress, they might become too sleepy or lethargic or cry and protest. Having your baby in skin to skin when they are sleeping gives them the opportunity to wake up happily and helps you catch their earliest feeding cues, making feeding more successful and easier.

Skin to skin has so many positive effects on you and your baby, that it is magical. Remember it is really important that skin to skin happens immediately after birth, if possible and lasts at least that first hour (and it should continue for as many hours both day and night as possible for the first few weeks or months).
It is important because:

·     Skin to skin keeps your baby’s temperature stable

·      Skin to skin helps to calm you and your baby

·      Skin contact encourages bonding between you and your baby

·      Skin to skin regulates baby’s breathing and heart rate and increases their blood sugar.

·      Research shows that skin contact and early feeding promotes successful breastfeeding

·      Skin to skin can improve weight gain and help reduce pain felt during procedures such as the heel prick.

·      Your baby is less likely to cry in skin to skin and will let you know when they are ready to feed.

·      From skin to skin your baby is more likely to latch on and latch on well to breastfeed

·      Using skin to skin with your baby will mean they are more likely to breastfeed exclusively and for longer.
Remember not all babies will want to feed immediately after birth, but keeping them skin to skin is important for all the other reasons given above.

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Moz Screenshot 5 | Xenana Spa | Portland Oregon

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