Something to consider as you are preparing for childbirth is skin-to-skin time with your baby in the minutes, hours, and days after birth. Skin-to-skin is holding your baby close to your body with ideally no clothing between you.
1. Bonding –
Perhaps one of the most obvious benefits. Having this closeness with your baby as soon as you can helps to stay in the flow of childbirth. Your body continues to work after the birth and having this time (sometimes called the golden hour) slows everything down. Gives you, your baby, and your partner space to adjust.
The smell of your baby releases pheromones which encourage us to hold our babies close. This helps us create and release oxytocin, the love hormone, which has a role in breastfeeding and motherhood. We have all experienced that rush of love when we are close to, or touching, our loved ones!
2. Breastfeeding –
Skin-to-skin can help get breastfeeding off to a good start. Studies have shown that women who practice skin-to-skin are also more likely to still be breastfeeding 4 months after birth. Having your baby on your chest (ideally near to your breasts so baby move their head to find them) as soon as possible after birth can help your body to release more oxytocin which plays a major role in breastmilk production.
3. Calm –
Babies who have been held skin-to-skin to their mothers, or others, for just 10 minutes have reduced levels of stress hormones, and increased levels of the love hormone, oxytocin, which also helps that baby to feel calm and safe. Babies often sleep more if they are held close too!
4. Communication –
Communication transcends words, especially when it comes to newborns and their mothers. Touch, sound, and smell ensure that your baby knows they are with their mother, the mother who has carried them within their womb.
5. Learning –
The time after your baby’s birth is important. As a new-born parent you will learn your baby’s personality and behaviours. You will see their feeding ques, what they do when they are tired or need a cuddle etc. Having your baby skin-to-skin helps to ensure that you will learn your baby’s signals sooner, building up your confidence as a mother as well as helping your baby to know they can trust and feel safe with you.
Your baby will also learn from you. You become their guide, they can hear you breathe, your heartbeat and being held skin-to-skin helps your baby to sync up with you.
6. Safety –
Your baby has been growing listening to your body for these last 9 months or so. When they are born they are suddenly in a new place. Being close to you means they can hear your heartbeat, feel your touch for the first time and this serves to help your baby to feel secure and safe. If birth has not been straightforward then being held to your body can also ensure they feel secure and safe.
7. Immunity –
When your baby is held skin-to-skin they become colonised with the bacteria on your skin. Your early milk (colostrum) and later your mature milk then produces antibodies to specifically protect against those bacteria. Your baby also gathers your friendly bacteria which builds up their gut flora which makes a strong foundation for their own individual immune system.
8. Warmth –
Once your baby is born their temperature, which has been regulated up to this point in your womb, starts to drop. Newborn babies cannot regulate their own temperature yet, but nature has it covered! Your body gets warmer once you have birthed your baby – specifically your upper body the place you would hold your baby skin-to-skin. What makes this even more amazing is that your body reads what temperature your individual baby needs and can adjust to the perfect temperature for them!
9. Adjustment –
Your baby has been growing safe, warm, and secure in your womb. When they are born their place of safety, security and warmth is gone. They are suddenly in the outside world and this can be quite the transition! By holding them close they can hear your body, learn your safe touch and this adjustment into life earth side is slower and gentler.
10. Not just for mothers –
Although so many benefits are for mother and baby, Fathers or Partners can totally get in on some of this action. Bonding, learning, safety, warmth, and adjustment are important coming from partners too. So, although mother-baby skin-to-skin should be prioritised, your partner should have some of this time too. This can be a good thing to remember if mother-baby skin-to-skin is not possible as your partner can hold your baby to them until you are ready to do so.
11. And not just for the first days –
Skin-to-skin continues to benefit you and your baby in the weeks, months and even years after birth. So, if skin-to-skin is not possible in the time immediately after birth, you can reap the amazing benefits at any stage.
Sophie Cartwright is a Hypnobirthing teacher and runs Kent Hypnobirthing providing group, 1:1 and parenting classes all over Kent. To work with her or one of her team of wonderful hypnobirthing teachers head here or email firstname.lastname@example.org to have a chat!