Skin to skin with your baby

Hello, this is my first blog post, I hope of many. I am a qualified lactation consultant and I thought, I would share some experiences with you around breastfeeding and my journey.

With my first baby nearly 12 years ago, I wrote in my birth plan, I didn’t want my baby placed on my chest, straight after birth, I wanted her/him wrapped and given to me. A choice, I have regretted since. I made this choice because I didn’t want all that birth mess on me, little did I know that I wouldn’t care by then. So, I had my beautiful baby girl wrapped in a towel and given to me and all she did was cry. She didn’t latch on to my breast straight away and a midwife man handed my baby and my breast to help! Not the experience, I hoped for. I did breastfeed my baby but not after a few days of very few ups and lots of downs and lots of tears. I had skin to skin straight after birth with all my other children and they all latched on successfully.

So what is skin to skin with your baby, it is when you place your baby naked (or with a nappy on only) next to your naked chest or abdomen, you can add a towel or blanket over your baby for extra warmth. A hat maybe necessary if your baby is cold or small. Mummies and Daddies can both do this. I can only describe skin to skin ‘as the best feeling in the world, nothing comes close for me’.

Skin to skin mineSo, what are the benefits for you and you baby, these are well documented in literature and on the internet:

One example is, Phillips, R (2013) Medscape.

Skin-to-Skin Contact Provides Physiologic Stability: your baby will regulate their temperature, heart rate, oxygen saturations, blood sugars as they adjust to their new world.

  • Skin-to-Skin Contact Promotes Maternal Attachment Behaviours: this promotes bonding between yourself and you baby. You will produce Oxytocin, the love hormone which aids milk production, hence the best feeling in the world.
  • Skin-to-Skin Contact Protects from the Negative Effects of Separation: This sounds scary for your baby but it is a natural instinct as he is separated from you is to find you which he will do by crying, this is survival instinct of the newborn. He will feel secure next to you.
  • Skin-to-Skin Contact Supports Optimal Brain Development: Research has shown that skin to skin can help the brain pathways develop in your baby, please don’t fear if you are unable to have skin to skin as bonding and attachment all contribute to brain development.
  • Skin-to-Skin Contact Increases Breastfeeding Rates and Duration: Babies will root and find your breast when placed to skin to skin on your chest or abdomen. They are very alert in the few hours post birth and evidence has shown babies rooting, finding and self-attaching themselves on the breast to feed. So support your baby as they move around on you as their natural instinct is taking place. Early feeding has links to increased breastfeeding rates and duration.

So what happens if you choose not to or your baby is born premature or sick, please don’t worry that your baby won’t have the benefits as above because they can when you and your baby is ready.

As a neonatal nurse, I would recommend you ask the nurses and doctors looking after your baby about skin to skin or kangaroo care as it can be called this too in neonatal units. They will support you in this when your baby is able to have skin to skin. Again, there is a lot or research and support into kangaroo care for premature babies, please see the quote from Tommy’s the premature baby charity.

‘Parents who use this method often say they find it a very satisfying way to nurture and bond with their baby. Many also report that their babies seem to love this method of care – perhaps because it reminds them of life inside the womb. It also has health benefits. Kangaroo care compared to traditional care has been found to reduce the instances of infection, hypothermia, severe illness, lower respiratory tract disease and reduce the length of hospital stay. Kangaroo care helped parents bond with their babies and helped the babies have improved interactions with parents’

Once your baby is at home or becoming better in hospital don’t be scared or forget to strip you baby off and have skin to skin because the benefits last longer and are not exclusive to the first skin to skin experience. Enjoy.

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