How to Establish Early Skin-to-Skin Contact with Your Newborn

When we think of a mother and her newborn in the first hours after birth, most of us picture an image of a tired mom snuggling what I call her “baby burrito!” I’m sure you all know what I’m referring to: a brand new baby tightly swaddled in a hospital receiving blanket donning a pink or blue hat. While they sure are cute as button when all swaddled up, what a newly-born baby needs most is to be naked up against their mama.

Babies are designed to be in close contact with their mothers. Their neurological wiring is so unique and skin-to-skin contact, immediately after birth and in the early weeks of life, promotes the release of very specific hormones in both mom and baby that is essential for healthy development. Newborns that are in frequent skin-to-skin contact with their mothers are: calmer and more alert, better regulate their body temperature, better organize their sleep/wake cycles and breastfeed better. These are just a few of the astounding benefits! Even more benefits of skin-to-skin contact are discussed here.

Here are a few tips, especially for moms giving birth in a hospital:

• Discuss with your care provider prior to birth your wishes for immediate skin-to-skin contact with your baby. Respectfully request that you would like your baby to be immediately placed on your body, unswaddled, unless there are complications that warrant otherwise. Your partner can help with this by reminding your care providers during your birth. (Doulas are very helpful with this, too.)

• If your baby is doing well, ask that the staff please delay his/her evaluation. Most hospital staff are more than willing to delay this for at least 10-20 minutes and some for as long an hour or two after birth. Alternatively, you can ask if they can perform some the evaluation right at your bedside while you hold your baby.

• If your baby is swaddled before being given to you, it’s very easy to unswaddle your baby and place them right against your chest. Your own body heat is perfectly designed for keeping newborns warm. Place a couple receiving blankets around the back of your baby to keep heat from escaping.

• When a mother has a cesarean delivery, her partner can put the newborn right against his chest until the mother is in recovery and stabilized.

• Spend as much time as possible in the first few days and weeks of life having your baby’s skin directly against yours. Frequent breastfeeding provides the perfect opportunity for this contact!

• Consider the benefits of giving birth outside of a hospital, either at home or at a free-standing birth center. The risk of a mother being separated from her newborn usually is only a concern in the hospital.

By Expert Mommy, Sarah Baker