You are handed the most amazing little bundle and you count ten perfect fingers, ten perfect toes and draw in a deep breath as you meet your baby face-to-face for the very first time… There are simply no words to describe how incredible those precious moments are! While the world around you may be tuned out in those first few moments of bliss, an important thing for you moms-to-be to remember is these moments set the stage for your bond with your child.
From a health standpoint, skin-to-skin contact in the first few hours of your baby’s life is essential. It is the transitional stage for baby from being in the womb to becoming oriented and acclimatized to his or her new environment. Beyond the fact that it feels amazing to finally see and cuddle with your little one, there are numerous benefits of skin-to-skin bonding time.
- Reduces crying at birth since being nuzzled on mom is a baby’s natural habitat. It is the only place they want to be and babies will show signs of stress, such as crying, when taken away from their natural habitat
- Allows baby’s instinct to root and latch to the breast naturally without force (higher likelihood if not medicated)
- Allows mom to breastfeed successfully – baby’s ability to latch is better
- Increased likelihood of mom breastfeeding in the first four months of life and those who are skin-to-skin tend to breastfeed longer
- Thermoregulation: helps your baby regulate his or her body temperature, a brilliantly designed maternal instinct. Those moms who stay in close contact with their babies are able to regulate their own body temperature to help keep baby comfortable
- Regulates and stabilizes baby’s heart rate and breathing rate
- May decrease postpartum depression risk
- Maintains healthier blood sugar levels in baby
- Begins to develop baby’s immune system since being colonized with same bacteria as mom
- Improves maternal attachment: increases oxytocin a.k.a. ‘love hormone’ in mom, helping her to bond appropriately with her baby
- Helps uterus return to its normal size
- Helps increase infant weight gain
- Boosts milk production
- Stimulates baby’s brain
- Shortens hospital stay
- Promotes kangaroo care – continued baby-wearing and connectivity
- Lowers stress levels for mom – skin-to-skin is empowering for mom
There are so many benefits to skin-to-skin bonding! You might be wondering if there are any potential risks… the answer? Not one!
These benefits have also been found true for premature babies and babies on oxygen. They have found that ‘skin-to-skin babies’ required less oxygen than those who were separated from mom, and had a lower rate of premature infant mortality.
Mothers and babies have been taking advantage of the benefits of skin-to-skin bonding since the beginning of time, but as the birth process became more medicalized, routine separation has become standard. As you can imagine, swaddling prevents baby from naturally interacting with mom. It’s time we take active roles in our medical experiences and assess whether certain practices are in the best interests of you and your baby.
How to be skin-to-skin:
Mom should be in a reclined and relaxed position. Being inclined prevents suffocation and allows for baby to clear breathing passageways. Baby should be placed vertically between breasts. Always cover baby with warm blanket.
If you have a birth plan, birth partner, doula or midwife, let them know – ahead of time – how important your skin-to-skin bonding time is to you and request that you not be separated from your baby during the first 1-2 hours after birth. This will help ensure your wishes are respected and that you enjoy your first bonding experience uninterrupted by anyone.
It is normal and instinctual to be connected with baby as much as possible and as early as possible. A great way to confirm this is to look at other mammal species; after all, we are mammals, too! Observing other mammals after birth, you will notice that they are ‘skin-to-skin’, they feed on demand and they carry or stay close to their babies at all times. We could learn a lot from observing other mammals’ natural instincts!
Wishing you a very loving and special skin-to-skin bonding time with your sweet newborn baby!
In great health & happiness,
Dr. MichelleReferences: Jack Newman. The Importance of skin to skin contact. http://www.nbci.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=82:the-importance-of-skin-to-skin-contact-&catid=5:information&Itemid=17 Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N, Dowswell T. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. May 16, 2012