skin to skin

Ask the Educators: Skin to Skin Contact and Bonding After Birth

Childbirth education at Blooma serves families no matter what type of birth they are planning. All classes present evidence-based information for normal and safe birth, influenced by the Lamaze 6 Healthy Birth Practices. Classes provide information to expectant families to reduce their fear or anxiety while building confidence and preparing them for birth.

We love hearing your questions, and helping you make informed decisions for your birth. Many mamas and partners want to know, "What are the benefits to skin to skin contact after birth?"

Maybe you have wondered the same? Maybe you plan on skin to skin contact, but dont know the exact benefits. Childbirth Educator Beth Supple to the rescue! Learn why skin to skin contact in the Golden Hour after birth is recommended.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When a mama gazes into her baby’s eyes immediately after birth, and baby is placed on mama’s abdomen with direct skin contact, a multitude of amazing things happen for both. The first hour after birth is referred to as the “Golden Hour” for a reason.

What happens physiologically to mama and baby during this time is fascinating. Healing begins faster, bonding occurs, breastfeeding has a better success rate, and probiotics get exchanged in a cozy environment. These benefits have made skin-to-skin internationally recommended.

Physical Healing and Emotional Bonding

Both mama and baby maintain a perfect hormonal balance during Golden Hour. Oxytocin, the hormone of love, is the highest during orgasm, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding. After a baby is born and placed on the abdomen, but before the placenta is delivered, the amount of oxytocin released is at its peak. This release minimizes bleeding by stimulating uterine contractions. It also stimulates milk production and begins bonding. Oxytocin is released most easily if a mama is able to gaze without interruption into her newborn’s eyes and feel the baby on her skin. With skin-to-skin, the risk of postpartum hemorrhage is decreased, and there is a better success rate for breastfeeding.

In a natural labor, the body releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain reliever, helping mom and baby with pain relief during the birthing process. These endorphins also help create a sense of bliss after birth and dependency between mama and baby. Add that immediate release of adrenaline, and even the most exhausted mama and baby are typically alert immediately after delivery. The bonding of skin-to-skin and breastfeeding can extend this miraculous alertness.

Increased Rate of Success for Breastfeeding

When a baby is skin-to-skin in the first hour of life, baby and mama have primordial instincts to breastfeed. The first milk produced, called colostrum, smells similar to amniotic fluid. Baby is actually able to crawl up to the breast, motivated by sense of smell. His or her little legs push down on mama’s belly to hunt that nipple! This also helps massage the uterus, minimizing postpartum bleeding for mama too. Amazing isn’t it?

Colostrum is the perfect first meal for baby. It is nutrient rich, high in protein, and full of antibodies to help protect baby from infection. It is lower in sugar and fat than breastmilk, so it is easily digested. A few milliliters help to stabilize baby’s blood sugar over the course of the first 24 hours. Colostrum also helps establish lifelong gut flora. Who needs probiotics anyway?

Probiotics and Baby’s Body Temperature

That is not the only remarkable clinical exchange: good bacteria colonizes from mama’s skin to baby’s! The mother and baby share the same unique antibodies, so a mama’s skin is already a familiar place for baby. Mama’s abdomen is the most beneficial space for a baby within the first hour. Delaying baby’s first bath enhances this probiotic balance, and keeps baby’s body temp appropriately cozy! Through thermal synchrony, mama’s body is able to fluctuate temperature and meet baby’s needs. If a baby is too cool, the mama’s chest temperature heats up to warm him or her. An intuitive mama’s body is almost always better technology than a hospital baby warmer.

Skin-to-skin is not always possible immediately after birth. If mama and baby need to be separated, skin-to-skin can still begin as soon as baby is returned. There are still many benefits to skin-to-skin, even if it is delayed beyond the first hour, including bonding and breastfeeding. And let’s give some recognition to the similar miraculous power of a partner’s skin-to-skin abilities - Partners that practice skin to skin create a relationship with baby, lower stress levels, babies cry less, and enhance bonding. Skin-to-skin for the whole family!

Written by Beth Supple, MN, RNC-MNN

Beth is a Labor & Delivery Registered Nurse, childbirth educator at Blooma, and mama of two.

 

References:

Crenshaw, J. (2014). Healthy Birth Practice #6: Keep Mother and Baby Together— It’s Best for Mother, Baby, and Breastfeeding. Journal of Perinatal Education, 23(4): 211–217.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4235060/

Holley, S. (2017). Providing Evidence-Based Care During the Golden Hour. Nursing for Women’s Health, 21(6): 462-472.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321701874_Providing_Evidence-Based_Care_During_the_Golden_Hour

Odent, M. (2002). The First Hour Following Birth: Don’t Wake the Mother! Midwifery Today, 061.

https://midwiferytoday.com/mt-articles/first-hour/

Erlandsson, K., Dslina, A., Christensson, A. (2007). Skin-to-skin care with the father after cesarean birth and its effect on newborn crying and prefeeding behavior. Birth, 34(2):105-114.

https://nuroobaby.com/skin-to-skin/the-benefits-of-skin-to-skin-contact-between-dad-baby/