The big moment is here and your baby has finally arrived! There is nothing like the experience of seeing and holding your newborn for the first time. Aside from the joy and relief of holding your newborn, there are also significant benefits to the baby and the mother of having skin to skin contact immediately following birth.
What is Skin-to-Skin Contact?
Skin-to-skin contact is the act of placing your naked – or nearly naked (in a diaper) – baby directly onto your bare chest. There are many studies that have shown that immediate skin-to-skin contact between a mother and baby following birth is crucial to the mother-baby bonding process.
Once an infant is placed on the mother’s bare chest, typically they will adjust to their new environment outside the womb much easier, the baby’s eyes may open and gaze towards the mother’s face, and the infant may snuggle into the mother’s chest and listen to the comforting sound of her heartbeat.
Labor and delivery are arduous and exhausting, so if you don’t experience a rush of positive feelings right away, there is no need for concern. Bonding skin-to-skin may relax and energize you, but sometimes the bonding process for the mother takes some time.
The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact are plentiful for both the baby and the mother.
Studies have found that skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth (and after) stimulates the newborn brain to seek nourishment from the mother’s breast.
For premature babies, skin-to-skin contact can result in faster growth, improved neurological development, and a shorter stay in the NICU.
Benefits for the infant may include:
- Better ability to maintain body temperature
- Provides comfort (less crying and fussing)
- Helps to stabilize the infant’s heartbeat and breathing
- Increases oxygen levels
- Improves brain development
- Starts the bonding with the mother as early as possible
- Stronger immune systems
- Improved weight gain
- More success with breastfeeding
Benefits for the mother may include:
- Promotes bonding due to the release of hormones like oxytocin, endorphins, and prolactin
- Decrease in stress levels
- Reduction of the risk of postpartum depression
- A more positive breastfeeding experience
- Improved breast milk production
- Reduced postpartum bleeding
What if I Can’t Have Skin-to-Skin Contact with My Baby Following Birth?
There are reasons it may not be possible to hold your infant immediately following birth if the baby (or mother) needs to be evaluated for medical reasons or if you have a cesarean birth.
Most medical professionals will place the infant on the mother’s bare chest as soon as it is medically safe to do so, but it is a good idea to discuss this with your obstetrician beforehand to be clear that skin-to-skin contact is important to you.
With a cesarean birth, in many cases, you will still be able to hold your infant soon after giving birth.
If there is a medical emergency with the baby, ask to hold the baby’s hand or hover your hand over the baby’s head so he/she can sense that you are there.
Dads and Skin-to-Skin Contact
Immediately following the birth of a baby, mothers are typically the priority for skin-to-skin contact with a newborn to help facilitate breastfeeding and bonding, but dads also need to form a bond with the baby and should perform skin-to-skin contact within the first hour of birth.
During a cesarean section, or if there is a medical complication with the mother, dads are encouraged to step in and have skin-to-skin contact instead to start the parental bonding process with the baby as soon as possible.
Dads should also continue to have skin-to-skin contact with their new baby for months following birth to establish and strengthen the bonding process.
Are you looking for a Tucson OB/Gyn you can trust? Call 520.721.8605 to book an appointment with Copperstate today!