Throughout pregnancy, your body satisfied all of your baby’s needs. Your baby has been constantly fed, protected, and kept warm, soothed by the swooshing of your heart.
The transition from the womb to the outside world is a huge adjustment for a baby! Suddenly he will experience light, loud noises, cold, and hunger for the very first time.
Snuggling your baby skin to skin is the very best way to ease the transition from the protected womb to the outside world. It not only provides comfort to both mom and baby but it has health benefits as well.
Importance for Babies
The World Health Organization recommends that babies be placed on their mother’s chest immediately after birth and stay snuggled there for at least an hour, uninterrupted.
Research shows that when babies are placed skin to skin:
- The warmth of your body helps baby’s temperature to adjust and stabilize.
- Baby’s heart and breathing rate become more regular.
- Your baby’s stress is reduced, leading to a more stable blood sugar.
- Baby will be colonized by mom’s good bacteria.
- It provides comfort if painful procedures, such as blood tests, are needed.
- Your baby will be more content and cry less.
- He will learn to breastfeed faster.
Importance for Mothers
This close body contact is not only important for babies. There are health benefits for moms as well.
- It helps your uterus to contract after birth, expelling the placenta more quickly.
- Your body will produce higher amounts of prolactin, a hormone that helps your body to make milk.
- You will be more aware of your baby’s hunger signals.
- It soothes babies when they are fussy thereby decreasing your stress level.
- You are able to breathe in your baby’s newborn smell. This is known to enhance bonding.
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Safe skin to skin contact in the first hour after birth
Researcher Louise Dumas has outlined steps for safe skin to skin contact immediately following birth. The order of the steps is important, she notes.
- Baby should be placed directly on your bare chest, with no diaper, before drying him off.
- Stretch baby out so your bodies are in contact as much as possible, with baby’s chest against your chest.
- Be sure your baby is free to move and lift his head and that he can breathe easily from his mouth and nose.
- Dry him while continuing to snuggle chest to chest. Pay special attention to drying baby’s back and head.
- Both of you should be covered with one dry blanket.
*If you have had a cesarean delivery or require extra help, your partner can assist by firmly supporting baby’s bottom to keep him from falling.
Some babies need medical attention at birth or are born prematurely. If your baby is not available to be snuggled immediately after birth, it is important to know that the benefits continue through baby’s early weeks. Start skin to skin care as soon as you are able.
If baby is available but you are not, your partner’s chest can offer the same warmth and security. (Your partner may want to wear a button up shirt to the delivery or one that can easily be removed just for this purpose.)
Dr. Nils Bergman is a physician and researcher with a passion for this topic. He explains some of the amazing benefits in this video.
Holding your baby close will allow both of you to benefit from the power of touch, not only at birth but also throughout the fourth trimester.