When I was admitted to the hospital to give birth to my son, I didn’t really have a birth plan. I had talked a few things over with my doctor, but I never put anything in writing because I didn’t know what exactly I was getting into. I didn’t know what would feel right at the time. The one thing that I did know was that I wanted immediate skin to skin contact after he was born.
Immediate skin to skin contact with your naked (or nearly naked) newborn on your bare chest has some truly amazing benefits for both mother and baby. Plus, it makes for a memorable first meeting between you and your new bundle of joy.
Immediate Benefits of Skin to Skin Contact After Birth
Babies who are placed on their mother’s chest just after birth, skin to skin, are better able to regulate temperature, heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing rate. This process helps the baby adapt to their new environment outside the womb and infants who get skin to skin contact tend to be less stressed and cry less. The baby is able to hear the familiar beat of mom’s heart. It also helps the baby become familiar to the mother’s bacteria which will help prevent allergic diseases.
Skin to skin contact also tends to promote better milk supply for mom and the act increases levels of oxytocin which help with letdown. Oxytocin also boosts maternal feelings and positive moods according to Ann Bigelow, Ph.D. It helps the mother become familiar with the baby’s signals which leads to a better maternal response. Babies who have skin to skin contact are more likely to nurse sooner and longer as well.
The First Hour
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends skin to skin contact for the first hour after the baby is born, if there are no complications. You can delay weighing and measuring and medications at most hospitals during this first hour to allow mother and baby to have this special time. After delivery, the baby will be dried and placed on your chest (wearing a diaper is completely fine to prevent any accidents). The chest is significantly warmer than other parts of the body and is a nice transitional space from womb to outside world without the little one getting too cold.
After the First Hour
Skin to skin contact is also a great way to calm down a worked up baby. Both mothers and fathers can have skin to skin contact with their baby to help promote bonding as well. Practicing skin to skin contact is healthy for both the parents and the baby. Transitioning to life outside of mom’s belly can be traumatic so being skin to skin is the next best thing. Aside from all of the benefits of skin to skin contact, there is just something so magical about holding this beautiful baby you’ve created, knowing that listening to your heart and breathing brings this tiny individual so much peace.