Boutique Bummis

L'art d'être parents…naturellement !

The Amazing Powers of Skin-to-Skin Contact – By Jennifer Welch

le mars 16, 2011

Our last but not least article by guest blogger Jennifer Welch !


(photo from http://obnurse35yrs.wordpress.com/category/birth-stories/)

 

If you are pregnant or have given birth recently, you’ve no doubt heard the recommendations that a newborn should be placed skin-to-skin with mom immediately following birth.  This simple act of placing a freshly born naked baby on his mother’s bare chest truly does make a big difference in his health and that of his mother.  Skin-to-skin is recommended for all babies:  healthy term babies, premature and sick babies, whether they are birthed vaginally or by cesarean.  (Yes!  Even for cesearan births!)  Read on to find out some of the reasons why:

 

Breastfeeding outcomes are significantly improved when immediate skin-to-skin is part of your birth plan.  Babies are born with strong instincts to find their mother’s breast soon after birth.  If babies kept in skin-to-skin contact, they are much more likely to be able to latch on when offered the breast.  In fact, if allowed to do so, they will actually crawl from their mother’s abdomen up to her breast!  (Watch it happen here: http://tinyurl.com/UNICEF-BreastCrawl .  Being in direct contact with her baby also helps mom by increasing her oxytocin levels, thus stimulating her milk supply.  In Skin-to-skin is one of the most important steps to increasing your odds at breastfeeding success!

 

Skin-to-skin contact with mom is important for baby’s immune system.  It helps colonize his body with his mother’s familiar flora, much of which he has already received antibodies to before he was born.  This leaves little room in his system for the foreign bacteria and viruses that may be lurking in the birthing environment.  This is an especially important consideration for babies born through cesarean section because they have not had the usual contact with the flora of their mother’s perineum, which is an important step in priming a new baby’s immune system.  This whole process is complemented by the fact that his mother’s milk contains antibodies that are targeted to whatever bacteria and viruses she is colonized with or has been exposed to in her birthing environment.

 

Skin-to-skin is good for baby’s overall health too.  It helps stabilize his temperature better than any technical warming device.  In fact, the temperature of his mother’s chest will rise and fall to ensure he is at just the right temperature.  It also helps regulate other functions in his tiny body.  We have also learned that babies held in this manner have more stable heart rhythms, breathing, blood pressure, and blood sugar (glucose) levels.  His mother’s chest is the perfect place for him to begin to adjust to life outside the womb!

 

But what if me or my baby needs treatment after birth?


Just about all routine evaluations of the baby (eg. APGARs) can be done right on mom’s chest.  Weighing the baby can wait until later after your baby has had a chance to breastfeed, as can routine treatments like eye ointment or vitamin K, if you have requested them.  In the event that your baby needs other treatment (eg. oxygen therapy or suctioning) these too can often be done while he is on you.  The same is true for mom.  Just about any treatment that she may require after birth can be performed while baby is on her chest.  If she needs stitches to repair a torn perineum, medication to control bleeding, or even stitches for a cesarean section, all of this can be done with baby in skin-to-skin contact.  If she has received medication that makes her groggy or otherwise less able to respond to her baby, then someone else should help hold her baby on her chest.  (This could be the baby’s father, a nurse, doula, midwife, or other supporting person.)

 

Skin-to-Skin Basics:


  • Immediately after birth, baby should be gently dried and placed on mom’s bare belly or chest.
  • Neither mom or baby should be washed before baby has a chance to breastfeed.
  • A light blanket can be placed over both mom and baby if the room is cool.
  • Mom and baby should not be interupted or seperated for at least two hours, unless truly medically necessary.
  • If mom is unable to do skin-to-skin with her baby, then dad is a wonderful substitute.  It is important to note though, that while dad is great at keeping baby warm, his body is unable to raise and lower his temperature in response to his baby’s needs the way mom does.  For this reason, it is recommended to limit time on dad’s chest to 90-minute segments to avoid overheating the baby.

 

If immediate skin-to-skin is not standard practice where you plan to give birth, it is worth while making it part of your birth plan.  There is no such thing as too much skin-to-skin contact with baby!  It can and should continue long after birth.  As you can see, it is an important step in ensuring baby’s physical health as he gets used to life on the outside and it is also a great way to bond and get to know this new little person.  And it is just plain fun to cuddle up with your baby!

 

To learn more about the powers of skin-to-skin contact, check out these links:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/102/5/SE1/1244

http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/jack_newman2.html

 

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me!

Jennifer Welch, IBCLC

jennifer.welch.ibclc@gmail.com

514-296-8073

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