In the first hours after your baby is born, skin-to-skin contact and staying with your baby at all times is something hospitals and parents should be practicing everywhere. Unfortunately it is not as common as it should be.
I have been using the Lamaze and Mothers Advocate videos a lot lately, and so I'll share another on this Healthy Birth Practice to describe the importance of keeping mothers and babies together after birth.
Why is it so important that we keep our babies with us and have skin-to-skin contact with our newborns in the first hours after birth? In the first hours and moments after a baby is born, they go through an amazing transition into a whole new world. Imagine if you will, going from the safety and space of the womb to a big, new world with bright lights, noises, and new people.
Your baby is learning how to breathe air, suck, swallow, and regulate their own temperature outside of the womb all for the very first time! With skin-to-skin contact, babies benefit from more than just bonding:
- Cry less
- Have more stable temperatures
- Have more stable blood sugars (the lack of skin to skin contact with my second son, because of my cesarean, caused a change in his blood sugar which resulted in a 30-hour NICU stay)
- Breastfeed sooner, longer, and much more easily
- Are exposed to normal bacterias on the mother, which can protect them from getting sick from unhealthy, or other types of bacteria, especially if birthing in a hospital
- Have lower levels of stress hormones
These are all big advantages for mothers too!
You might be thinking, "But what about my sleep? Why can't I just send the baby to the nursery for the night and rest up till I get home, then I can do this whole skin-to-skin thing?"
Studies show that mothers who give birth in a hospital and have their babies room in, get just as much sleep as those mothers who are sending their babies off to the nursery for the night. These same studies have shown that babies who go to the nursery often have more issues with breastfeeding, making the the challenge of initiating and continuing breastfeeding that more difficult.
But what if my hospital doesn't allow uninterrupted, skin-to-skin contact?
Be sure to discuss your preference for skin-to-skin contact with your care provider in advance of your birth, and again with your care provider and nursing staff upon being admitted to the hospital. If your hospital will not accommodate your desire for uninterrupted and immediate skin-to-skin contact (barring any medical emergency for you or your baby after birth), consider seeking a different hospital that employs more mother-baby friendly practices. It is almost never too late to change your birth venue or care provider.