The Importance of Skin to Skin after Birth


Many studies have found babies benefit from skin to skin contact with their mothers and fathers after giving birth.  Skin to skin, often called kangaroo care, is when babies are held naked against their mother’s skin for a minimum of 1 to 2 hours after birth. Midwives would argue skin to skin contact is beneficial several hours a day for a least 2 weeks. There are many reasons to implement kangaroo care. Immediate skin to skin after birth eases baby’s transition from uterine life ensuring temperature, breathing, and heart rate stabilization. While mothers benefit from this practice by keeping the uterus firm which can decrease bleeding. Skin to skin also increases breastfeeding success and decreases postpartum depression. Studies suggest that benefits for babies can persist for years. Skin to skin improves maternal attachment behavior, reduced maternal anxiety, enhances child cognitive development and increases successful breastfeeding. Babies tend to cry less, leading to less parental stress and anxiety. When the baby passes through the birth canal, the baby’s gut is colonized with bacteria from the mother’s vaginal. Skin to skin continues to expose the baby to the mother’s bacteria and microbes. This early exposure helps babies develop their own healthy bacteria. Exposure to microbes is associated with protection inflammatory bowel disease and asthma. Once this time is over you can’t get it back, so stay in bed, snuggle up and love your babe. Diapers are okay, and a blanket can be used for warmth.

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Breastfeeding is Beneficial


Breastfeeding has several significant positive consequences for women’s health.  Women who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes.  This blog entry is about the simple, yet effective ways to promote the breastfeeding relationship between mother and baby during the postpartum period and some simple breastfeeding techniques.

After birth, skin to skin contact between mother and baby facilitates bonding and promotes breastfeeding.  Mothers and babies benefit from smelling each other, so there is no need for baby hats.  Babies do not need baths either.  If your baby has vernix caseosa, a white creamy substance, which protects their skin from the constant exposure to amniotic fluid, just rub it into the baby’s skin or into your skin.  Lastly, it is important not to give your baby pacifiers.  Babies can self sooth or nurse.

Midwives and doulas assist mothers in initiating breastfeeding within half-hour of birth.  After that first latch, babies will fall into a deep sleep.  Once they wake up, newborns nurse on demand every two to three hours.  It is easiest to start nursing once you notice your baby getting fidgety or smacking their lips.  If you miss these cues, you may need to calm your baby by placing your finger gently in their mouth until they are calm enough to nurse.

The classic nursing position is called the cradle hold.  To use this position, cradle your baby’s head in the nook of your arm, and use pillows to stay in a straight line, belly to belly.  With the other hand, cup your breast between your thumb and index finger and insert your nipple to the roof of your baby’s mouth.  When your baby is latched correctly, your nipple and at least part, if not all, the areola-the dark area surrounding the nipple-is in your baby’s mouth.  There are several other popular nursing positions that include the cross over hold, the football hold, and reclining position.

Many times when your baby needs to take a break or wants to switch sides, she/he will open and release your breast.  If your baby does not release or is latched on incorrectly, gently slide your finger into the side of your baby’s mouth, go past your baby’s lips and between the gums.  This will break the suction.  Keep your finger between your baby’s gums until your nipple is removed.

Other good resources are Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League International.  For more support from other local breastfeeding moms, contact your local La Leche League International.  For more information, contact me at BlissfulMidwifery.com.