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Have you heard of the many AMAZING benefits of skin to skin contact with your newborn?
What is skin to skin and why is it so important for mom and baby?
Easing the Transition from Womb to World
Birth can be very traumatic for a new baby!
Not only does a baby often go through a long ordeal with labor and delivery, but he also needs to adapt to so many new sensations, sights and smells in those first few hours and days outside the womb.
The transition from womb to world can be a very scary thing for babies!
How can we help ease this transition for our precious little one? The answer? Skin to skin contact!
If you haven’t already heard of the benefits of skin-to-skin contact, I hope that you will be inspired to prioritize this intimate, bonding time with your newborn. It is probably one of the best things a new parent can do to help transition their baby from womb to world!
The warm feel and smell of mom is very familiar and comforting to him. A baby that is placed skin to skin with his mother is immediately calmed and comforted after birth.
In addition, there are tremendous benefits to mom (and dad) as well!
In this post, I am going to list the many health benefits of skin to skin for both mom and baby.
I am also going to offer practical tips for getting plenty of this special bonding time with your new baby.
What is Skin to Skin?
Skin to skin time is when baby snuggles naked (with diaper) on mom or dad’s bare chest.
It is often considered to be the time immediately following birth, but the benefits of skin to skin can be enjoyed well past the day of birth!
Babies and parents are encouraged to have lots of skin to skin time during the first few days and weeks postpartum.
Research shows that the benefits of skin to skin are many for all babies, whether they are breastfeeding or formula feeding.
The Benefits of Skin to Skin Immediately After Birth
It has become common procedure in many hospitals for newborns to be immediately placed onto their mother’s abdomen or chest following delivery.
In the event of a normal, healthy birth where mom and baby are both stable, this is the absolute best place for baby!
Some hospitals that recognize the great benefits of skin to skin, are now even encouraging skin to skin time immediately following a cesarean birth!
Make sure that you include in your birth plan your desire to have immediate skin-to-skin time with your new baby.
You can even make the request for skin to skin in the event of a cesarean birth. Since every hospital policy is different regarding this practice, make sure that you ask about this when you tour or choose your delivery hospital.
The Miracle Hour!
As part of your newborn care plan, I encourage you to consider this fact: After a normal vaginal or cesarean delivery, a full-term infant is in a quiet-alert state for the first hour or so.
This is such a precious hour! It is often referred to as the “Magical Hour” or the “Miracle Hour”, since it is such an amazing time of bonding for parents and baby.
This time is designed by our Creator to allow mom and baby time together… time to bond, gaze into each other’s eyes and a time to initiate breastfeeding. Baby is often very alert and responsive!
After the first hour or so, your baby will likely enter into a very sleepy state. It may be awhile before your baby experiences that alert state again.
Most newborn experts agree that parents need to take full advantage of that time to bond with their baby.
Unless you have an infant who needs emergency care, most newborn procedures can either be delayed until that first hour is over or performed during the skin to skin time.
Fortunately, a lot of hospitals now understand the benefits of skin to skin and support this practice, but don’t hesitate to let your wishes be known, if not!
How a Plan Helps
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now support the practice of skin to skin after birth. (Source)
There are also many progressive birthing hospitals that support skin to skin and other baby-friendly hospital practices.
However, not all hospitals are on board, so you may need to advocate for getting this time in during the early minutes after birth.
I have written a post about the importance of a Newborn Care Plan so that you can communicate your wishes with hospital staff before baby is born!
As a doula, I see lots of women who wish that they would have been better prepared for their birth and postpartum experiences.
Planning can make the whole experience much more enjoyable and peaceful! But many pregnant women don’t know where to begin when it comes to planning for a baby!
Benefits of Skin to Skin
There are so many amazing benefits of skin to skin! Not only does this special snuggle time benefit baby, but mom and dad as well! Here are some of the many health and emotional benefits it provides:
Benefits for Baby
- Calms baby since he already knows his mom’s body and smell.
- Helps baby cry less.
- Warms or cools baby as needed.
- Releases hormones that relieve stress and stabilize baby’s temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, and blood sugar.
- Exposure to parent’s skin microbiome helps boost baby’s immune system and protects against illness and disease.
- Builds a strong brain through the smells, textures, and sounds the baby experiences while he’s on mom or dad’s chest.
- Helps baby gain weight faster.
- Helps baby initiate breastfeeding faster. (source)
- Skin-to-skin exposes your baby to new germs, and your milk has antibodies that fight against those germs. It’s like giving your baby his first immunization!
- Promotes better sleep.
- Stimulates sleepy baby to nurse more often.
- Helps calm a fussy baby so she can latch.
- Helps reset a baby’s ability to latch, even after a prolonged period of bottle-feeding or other supplementary feeding!
Benefits for Mom
- Releases a hormone that lowers mom’s stress, calms and promotes healing. (source)
- Helps your colostrum (the first milk that is full of nutrients that protect baby) to flow more easily.
- Helps mom breastfeed longer by building her milk supply and making her bond with baby stronger.
- Lowers mom’s risk of postpartum mood disorder. (source)
- Gives mom a chance to rest or take a break.
- Promotes better sleep.
- Promotes faster bonding with baby
- encourages increased milk production in breastfeeding mothers
- Promotes healthy emotions and feelings towards baby. (source)
Benefits for Dad
- Promotes faster bonding with baby
- Promotes psychological well-being and calms dad.
- Empowers dad to care for baby and feel helpful.
- Dad becomes central to baby’s care.
- Promotes better sleep and relaxation.
- Helps dad to read baby’s hunger and stress cues.
Benefits for Preemies/Kangaroo Care (source)
- stabilizes premature babies more quickly and reliably than being in an incubator
- maintains the baby’s temperature better than an incubator.
- stabilizes a premature baby’s heart rate and breathing
- helps prevent babies’ blood sugar from dropping too low
- relieves pain when babies need to have blood tests or other procedures done
- helps premature babies gain weight better
- helps non-latching babies or those with a range of breastfeeding problems breastfeed more effectively
- reduces the amount babies cry
- reduces mortality rate of premature babies (source)
Skin to Skin Safety
During skin-to-skin time, make sure baby’s breathing is not obstructed. You don’t want baby’s neck bent too far forward, and baby’s nose and mouth should always be uncovered. Use the following safety tips:
- Save skin-to-skin for those times when you won’t fall asleep. If you fall asleep, you can easily block baby’s airway. Ask someone to watch over you and baby right after you deliver, if you start to feel sleepy.
- Keep baby in an upright position (his head higher than his feet).
- Adults who hold baby should sit semi-upright with a pillow behind their back.
- Make sure baby’s head is turned to the side so he can breathe easily.
- Place blankets over baby’s back to keep everyone warm and cozy. Don’t let the blankets cover baby’s nose or mouth.
Tips for Getting Enough Skin to Skin
In the Hospital-
- In hospital, you may be able to shut the door and pull the curtains around your bed to get some privacy with your baby.
- Bring a large bathrobe from home that you can wrap around both you and baby to cover up.
- Limit visitors if necessary to enable plenty of time with your new baby.
- Ask your nurses for a lightweight bed sheet or extra warmed blanket if room is chilly.
- Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door. If they don’t have one, make one! This will prevent unnecessary interruptions from hospital cleaning staff etc.
At Home –
- In your first days at home, spend as much time as you can in bed, semi-reclining with baby on your chest.
- If you’ve needed to be up and dressed (because of visitors), try taking a relaxing warm bath with your baby at the end of the day. This bath can double as a healing sitz bath as well!
- Try a wrap baby carrier to hold your diaper-only baby against your bare chest, then put a button-front shirt over both of you.
- A large button-front shirt can also be a quick cover-up when you need some privacy!
- Skin-to-skin time with Dad is also very valuable, and may be easier if you have company.
- Consider having “visiting hours” for friends and family members! Get this into your postpartum plan.
- Instead of swaddling your newborn to get him to sleep more during the postpartum time, try allowing him to sleep skin-to-skin on your chest. This post sheds more light into why this is so helpful during the early weeks.
A Note on Modesty
I have attended a few births where the mothers refused immediate skin to skin with their babies because of concerns about modesty.
While I certainly understand this concern, please don’t let this interfere with this amazing bonding time with your baby! The benefits of skin to skin are too great to miss!
There are definitely ways to protect your modesty while still taking advantage of this first “magical hour” with your quiet-alert baby.
Don’t miss out! Make sure that you ask your nurse or doula for ways to help make this possible for you!
Your concerns about modesty can also be included into both your birth plan and postpartum plans! Most nurses are very willing to help with this request!
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any other tips on how to enjoy the benefits of skin to skin with your baby? Please leave a comment!
*Disclaimer – The information in the post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be medical advice. Please make sure that you do your own research and talk with your baby’s doctor about these procedures before deciding on your newborn care plan. It is important that you feel good about your decisions regarding your baby’s care.
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