So what exactly is the point in skin to skin after birth? It has a lot of amazing benefits! Ideally this moment begins immediately after birth, with the baby placed prone directly onto the mother’s uncovered chest. A blanket can then be placed over both, and they will be left alone to bond and learn more about each other. Routine procedures are delayed. When your baby is placed skin to skin, nine behaviors can be seen that lead to the first breastfeeding. You may have heard of the breast crawl? So let’s get to some of the benefits!
- Facilitates bonding
- Improves dyadic mutuality
- Stabilizes infant breathing
- Stabilizes infant heart rate
- Stabilizes infant body temperature regulation
- Stabilizes infant blood glucose levels
- Decreases infant crying
- Improves rates of breastfeeding initiation
- Improves breastfeeding self-efficacy
- Increases mother’s confidence in caring for her baby
- Begins infant’s microbiome*
I want to speak a minute on those 9 behaviors that you can observe your infant doing.
1. The birth cry is the first; this is the cry you will hear immediately after delivery. It is very distinct, high pitch cry as your baby first expands his lungs.
2. The second is relaxation, and will occur as baby is placed onto your bare chest to begin the golden hour. You can look for things like your baby’s hands being open and relaxed.
3. The third stage is the awakening stage. You may notice that your baby will open his eyes, and begin to move around his head and shoulders.
4. The fourth stage is called the activity stage, and this is where you will begin to notice mouthing and rooting reflexes.
5. The fifth stage will be rest, and you may notice other periods of resting between all the activities.
6. The sixth stage is called crawling. This is the stage where you baby will begin sort of thrusts and kicks to bring himself closer to your breasts.
7. Seven is familiarization. Your baby will begin touching and kneading/massaging your breast, and will lick and mouth around at your nipple.
8. The eighth stage is sucking. Your baby will latch onto your breast and begin nursing.
9. Nine is sleep, after all the wonderful activity and the first nursing your baby will be tired and want a period of sleep.
Regardless of how you feed your baby, every baby still can greatly benefit from doing skin to skin immediately after birth. If there are medical reasons why you must be separated, you can begin as soon as able to.
*The human microbiome is a fascinating thing! This is our own personal ecosystem of sorts. It consists of the trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that live inside and outside of our bodies. Your gut, skin, even your breast milk. Our health is determined by the balance of the good and bad microbiomes we have within our bodies. Providing our infants with skin to skin, vaginal births, and breastfeeding starts them off with the best possible microbiome. If you’d like to learn more about seeding and protecting your infant’s microbiome, I will be writing on that in the near future. Penny Simpkin’s work is absolutely fabulous on this subject!!
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Mikiel-Kostyra K, Mazur J, Boltruszko I (2002). Effect of early skin-to-skin contact after delivery on duration of breastfeeding: a prospective cohort study. Acta Paediatr 91(12):1301-6
Bystrova K, Ivanova V, Edhborg M et al (2009) Early Contact versus Separation: Effects on Mother–Infant Interaction One Year Later. Birth:36; 97-108
Aghdas, K., et al. 2014. Effect of immediate and continuous mother–infant skin-to-skin contact on breastfeeding self-efficacy of primiparous women: A randomised control trial. Women Birth 27. Pp 37-40.
Kajsa Brimdyr, PhD, CLC. (2011). The First Hour After Birth: A Baby’s 9 Instinctive Stages. http://www.magicalhour.com/aboutus.html