Skin-to-Skin is a term used to describe when your baby’s naked body is held against yours. This is now actively recommended straight after birth and promoted, where possible. This simple contact is known to introduce hormones in mum to help bonding called Oxytocin and trigger the milk supply as well as regulating baby’s heart rate, breathing and oxygen levels. Research suggests that a mothers body can regulate the temperature of her baby’s by warming up if baby is too cold or cooling down if baby is too warm. And it is even linked to boosting their immune system.
Skin-to-Skin also evokes a similar hormonal response in dad’s and therefore is recommended for both parents to aid and boost bonding.
When baby is being held skin-to-skin following birth it keeps her warm, she can be comforted by your heartbeat and she will recognise your voice if you speak softly to her…all these sounds will reassure her that she is safe. Skin-to-skin takes your baby through a pattern that is well known by health professionals:
- Baby’s first cry
- Baby relaxes and listens to heartbeat
- opens eyes and looks at your for the first time
- moves hands to her mouth
- starts to intimate the need feed
But don’t expect that this will all happen quickly-it could take an hour or more before baby wants to feed. Enjoy gazing at your baby and getting to know them for the first time. It might be worth writing in to your birth plan that you would like these first moments to be uninterrupted as long as all is well.
Skin-to-skin should still be possible if you have a C-section but it might be worth writing in your birth plan that you would like this to happen in theatre. If it isn’t skin-to-skin with your partner is the next best thing.
Some baby’s are born too poorly for this initial contact but remember any touch is important, hold your baby’s hand or even put your hand near them so they can smell your familiar smell. There will be plenty of time to catch up on missed skin-to-skin. In fact Skin-to-Skin contact is especially important in premature babies and it has been proven to reduce the risk of infections and hypothermia, while increasing growth and shortening hospital stays.
So all in all it would appear that Skin-to-skin is a little bit magic! Plus it gives you the perfect excuse to sit and cuddle your newborn-what could be better?