This post is courtesy of Ashley Fry, a doula with Fredericton Maternity 

 

If you are currently expecting a baby you may have already heard about “skin-to-skin” contact. Perhaps your doctor has handed you a pamphlet, or a friend has mentioned it, or it has come up as you prepare your birth plan. Or maybe you have yet to hear about skin-to-skin at all! Whichever the circumstance, this blog post will provide you with a better understanding of what skin-to-skin is and all the incredible benefits to be had by incorporating it in your birth plan and beyond!

Skin-to-skin contact, sometimes referred to as “Kangaroo Care”, is the act of placing your unclothed baby (diapered if you prefer) onto your bare chest. Ideally, this will happen right after the baby has been born, as well as continued contact over the next days, weeks, and even months of the baby’s life. There are numerous benefits for both the baby and the mother; however, any member of the family can participate in skin-to-skin contact with the new baby.

We have to remember that we are all MAMMALS! No one will run more on instinct than a brand new baby (of any species!) When we swaddle our babies after birth, the baby is unable to interact with the mother the way that nature intended. Placing a baby skin-to-skin with mom after birth begins an exchange of sensory information that prompts these natural “baby” behaviours – including rooting and searching for the breast. If you plan to breastfeed, babies placed skin-to-skin immediately after birth for a least an hour, are more likely to latch unaided as well as more likely to latch well. And if you have done ANY research about breastfeeding, you know that a good latch is a major key to successful nursing. The benefits of skin-to-skin don’t stop at breastfeeding, we also see that:

  • Baby is better able to regulate his/her body temperature
  • Baby is better able to maintain heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure
  • Baby has higher blood sugar
  • Baby is less likely to cry
  • Mom will be able to better read baby’s cues
  • Mom’s body will better produce the hormone prolactin, responsible for helping her body make milk.

I’m sure that now, having learned all the amazing benefits of skin-to-skin contact, you are going to incorporate it in your birth plan! But, you may be wondering how to make that happen; will baby be automatically handed to me for skin-to-skin? Do I have to mention it’s what I want? What if I end up having a c-section? What if my baby is born prematurely?

Definitely include your wishes for skin-to-skin in your birth plan, along with other wishes you might have for your birth experience. In almost all cases, there is no reason why a baby cannot be skin-to-skin immediately after birth. Weighing the baby and other hospital routines should not take priority over your wishes to have that “golden hour” of skin-to-skin with your baby. The Apgar test can be easily performed while baby is on mom’s chest. Skin-to-skin contact can also happen after a caesarean section, while mother is being stitched up, unless other medical concerns prevent it. In the case of babies born prematurely, studies have shown that when the baby is placed skin-to-skin with mom, they are more stable metabolically and breathe better! And again, like with full term babies, many measures the hospital takes to keep baby healthy can be performed compatibly with skin-to-skin. Of course there are always exceptions and baby’s who are quite sick will be taken care of accordingly. But, don’t fret mama – benefits of skin-to-skin can certainly come into play even after that first hour of giving birth! As mentioned previously in this blog post, skin-to-skin contact should continue through the first weeks of baby’s life!

I hope this answered some questions you may have had about skin-to-skin contact, enjoy those baby cuddles ☺

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