If you’ve done any research about labour, birth, newborns or breastfeeding, skin to skin is likely a term you’ve become familiar with.
What is Skin to Skin and Why Is It Important?
Skin to skin (or kangaroo care) is simply placing your naked baby belly down onto your bare chest. The first hour after birth is referred to as The Golden Hour as it’s an incredibly important time for both baby and you. You are both adjusting to big changes and skin to skin is easy to do and has such amazing benefits. Immediately after your baby is born he or she will be placed on your chest. This is exactly where you should keep them for at least the next hour. The nurse will dry your baby with a blanket and put a hat on her while babe is on your chest. Make sure her face is turned to the side so she can breathe. Then cover her back with a blanket. Being close to you like this helps babe adjust to this new, cold, loud, bright world. It also immediately encourages bonding with your new little bundle and helps you get to know him or her.
There are many studies that show the benefits of skin to skin go beyond bonding and cuddling. Kangaroo care calms your baby and reduces crying. It assists to regulate baby’s breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. Your chest (or dad’s) is the best place for babe to be if she is either hot or cold as your body temperature helps to stabilize baby’s temperature. It can also help baby maintain her blood sugar levels. This can be particularly important if baby is born premature or if you had gestational diabetes. As your baby enters the non-sterile world, placing her on your chest allows your healthy bacteria to be the first in contact with baby’s skin. The bacteria also makes contact with their respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract which may be helpful in preventing infection.
Skin to Skin Care and Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding can also be positively impacted by skin to skin. A baby who maintains skin to skin with their Mama for the first hour after birth is more likely to latch on. You’ll be able to watch your babe closely and pick up on her hunger cues when she wants to eat. She may start to move her head around looking for the breast. Follow her prompts and assist her to latch. Skin to skin actually increases your body’s production of a hormone called oxytocin, which improves milk letdown. Studies have also shown an increased volume of breast milk, decreased engorgement, longer duration of breastfeeding and increased exclusive breastfeeding rates in mothers that practice skin to skin care with their babes.
Benefits of Skin to Skin Care For The Mama
Skin to skin also has amazing benefits you too Mama! It is proven to decrease the risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. It can help decrease your perception of pain after delivery, therefore leading to faster recovery. A reduction in bleeding, blood pressure and stress hormones is also attributed to kangaroo care. The special closeness with your baby after birth is amazing for bonding and attachment. It also can help you feel more confident in your new role as a Mama. As you closely watch your baby you will be able to tell right away when she’s hungry. You’ll notice her rooting, opening her mouth, maybe sticking her tongue out and because she’s right there you can quickly help her latch and start to breastfeed.
It doesn’t matter if you have a vaginal birth or a c-section, skin to skin is achievable and important! If you have a c-section just ask the nurse looking after the baby in the operating room to help you do skin to skin. Your husband or support person will be there with you as well and can also help facilitate skin to skin. If for some reason you aren’t able to do skin to skin with baby get Dad to do it! Baby still gets lots of great benefits when doing kangaroo care with Dad and it is great for their bonding and attachment. Both parents should continue skin to skin care with babe long after being discharged from the hospital. It is a great way to get to know your baby. Before you know it they’ll be crawling or running away so enjoy the quiet, blissful moments in these beginning days and weeks. If you have any questions please reach out to a Mama Coach in your area. You got this Mama!