If you’re a new mom, then you’ve probably heard this a time or two: “Spend more time in skin to skin contact with your baby.” As sweet a thought that is, who seriously has the time or that much privacy (especially if you have older children running around) to go skin to skin for the recommended time frame? Is it really as important as these professionals say or is it an overrated dynamic that is no more important than avoiding nipple confusion? Let’s take a look at the practicality of it, what the research says, and, also, I’ll make a comparison to my own personal experience and observations.
Let’s be honest. As sweet as snuggling your new bundle of joy is, it’s certainly not that easy or comfortable to keep this little person on your bare chest while you have visits from family and friends, as well as, constant check-ins by doctors, nurses, and whoever else needs to come in and give you more information or check on the baby and/or you. It’s not the most practical idea in the modern way that we birth babies. So should we revert to the old school ideals and values of home births and keeping mom with baby home for at least a full month, or is this one piece of advice blown out of proportion? Can we ignore this mantra or at least cut back on how long/frequently you practice skin to skin? Can dad take on some of the skin to skin time and still give/get the stated benefits from it?
The latest research tells us that it really does make a significant difference, especially if baby is struggling with latching correctly or was born early or in a traumatic way. What’s more, skin to skin is beneficial no matter who decides to give that opportunity for contact to the little babe! "The father can facilitate the development of the infant's pre-feeding behavior in this important period of the newborn infant's life and should thus be regarded as the primary caregiver for the infant during the separation of mother and baby(3).” Of course, if you’re looking to improve latch and ease of breastfeeding, mama should be performing skin to skin more often, but the truth is, babies truly benefit from skin to skin contact, no matter if it’s with dad or mom; it all counts!
The first moments after birth are the most necessary. “There is good evidence that normal, term newborns who are placed skin to skin with their mothers immediately after birth make the transition from fetal to newborn life with greater respiratory, temperature, and glucose stability and significantly less crying indicating decreased stress (1).” Mothers who had spent time skin to skin kissed their babies more often and had a stronger, quicker bonding experience. Not only that, but there are long term benefits to this idea. “Skin-to-skin contact activates the amygdala via the prefronto-orbital pathway and thus contributes to the maturation of this vital brain structure (1).” In other words, as the baby bonds via skin to skin, his attachment to his mother directly affects how his brain is developing in the first 2 months of his life. This particular neurological development lasts the rest of his life and influences the way he learns and develops from there on out. He runs a high risk of being negatively impacted if these crucial parts of his brain are not fully, properly developed within this time frame. Who knew cuddles were this important?! Furthermore, babies born by C-section need uninterrupted time skin to skin with their mama more than if they’d been born naturally, to stabilize from a traumatic birth experience and have better success at latching well. Skin to skin statistically increases latch success and duration of exclusive breastfeeding. “Skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding seems to immediately enhance maternal positive feelings and shorten the time it takes to resolve severe latch-on problems in the infants who started to latch. An underlying mechanism may be that skin-to-skin contact with the mother during breastfeeding may calm infants with earlier strong reaction to “hands on latch intervention” and relieve the stress which may have blocked the infant’s inborn biological program to find the breast and latch on (2).” I think the research is sound and overwhelmingly convincing. Skin to skin is not just hype; there is truly something to it. Practical or not, time NEEDS to be made for as much opportunity to have skin to skin with this fragile, beautiful, tiny person.
Personally, with my first born I struggled with getting comfortable in the skin to skin mode. A lot of adjustments, more visitors, and struggling with nipple soreness all contributed to my hesitancy. Thankfully, my husband wasn’t shy and more than happy to facilitate that nurturing environment for his lil' guy. Second time around I was much more willing, but opportunity was scarce when chasing a toddler most of my days. So mostly, I could only fit in skin to skin during naps and, more often, at night when winding down for bed. I think with my second baby boy, it came more instinctively and we didn’t struggle as much as my firstborn and I did with latch and good nursing habits. I have taken note that each mother that I encounter is very different in this arena. Some are excited and enthusiastic about skin to skin, some give it a try and, usually, embrace it with time, and others seem a bit squeamish with the whole concept and need a little convincing. Overall, most moms try to have skin to skin contact at least once while they’re in the hospital/pregnancy center. So, I say, give it a shot! There are only all around benefits by trying it and you may feel compelled to plan more chances for that special moment in time when you can snuggle your sweet bundle skin to skin. <3 p="">
So, answer me this! What are your thoughts on all the information about skin to skin? IS it something you enjoyed when you had your little baby?