Skin to Skin Bonding Right after Birth – Best for Mom and Baby
Mothers and babies have a physiologic need to be together at the moment of birth and during the hours and days that follow. Keeping mothers and babies together is a safe and healthy birth practice. Evidence supports immediate, uninterrupted skin-to-skin care after vaginal birth and during and after cesarean surgery for all stable mothers and babies, regardless of feeding preference.
At Johnson County Healthcare Center, we believe that mothers and babies should be together as much as possible immediately following birth.
Based on decades of evidence, the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund recommended that all healthy mothers and babies, regardless of feeding preference and method of birth, have uninterrupted skin-to-skin care beginning immediately after birth for at least an hour, and until after the first feeding, for breastfeeding women.
First impressions are important and perhaps none more so than the newborn’s first moments of introduction to the world and the mother’s to her child.
Skin-to-skin care means placing dried, unclothed newborns on their mother’s bare chest, with warmed light blankets or towels covering the newborn’s back. All routine procedures such as maternal and newborn assessments can take place during skin-to-skin care or can be delayed until after the first hour after birth.
This sensitive time, sometimes called the “magical hour,” “golden hour,” or “sacred hour,” requires respect, protection, and support.
Why is it a “Golden Hour”?
At the moment of birth, newborns have a heightened, protective response to tactile, odor, and thermal cues. When the newborn is placed skin-to-skin with the mother, this heightened response stimulates behaviors that help to meet the newborn’s basic biological needs and reduces stress. Compared with newborns who did not have skin-to-skin care, newborns who had skin-to-skin care cried less; had enhanced cardio-respiratory stability, including oxygen saturation levels; more stable blood glucose levels; and enhanced thermal regulation.
There are other benefits which mother and child share if they are not routinely separated in the moments after birth. The risk of neonatal hypothermia is reduced by skin-to-skin care as the mother’s temperature quickly adjusts to regulate her newborn’s temperature. Immediate skin-to-skin care can protect against infection and promotes breastfeeding.
The hormones of birth and skin-to-skin care prepare a mother to need and seek her baby at the moment of birth. Oxytocin, the hormone that causes the uterus to contract, stimulates mothering feelings after birth as a mother touches, gazes at, and breastfeeds her newborn . More oxytocin is released as a mother holds her newborn skin-to-skin than when skin-to-skin care does not occur. A mother’s brain releases beta-endorphin during skin-to-skin care. Beta-endorphin is an analgesic-like hormone that helps a mother respond to her baby, reinforce the pleasure of her interactions, and help her feel calm.
What if I Have a C-Section?
Following vaginal birth, direct skin-to-skin care for stable mothers and babies can begin immediately, prior to cord clamping, as a newborn is placed on the mother’s abdomen, dried, and covered with a blanket. Once the cord is clamped, the newborn then can be moved to the mother’s chest.
Following cesarean surgery, skin-to-skin care for stable mothers and babies can begin in the operating room when the mother is alert and responsive. The vast majority of mothers who undergo cesarean surgery are alert and responsive when spinal or epidural anesthetic is used. Women who experienced skin-to-skin care during a cesarean described the experience as meaningful, were not “aware” of the surgical procedure because they focused on their newborn, and reported that they would welcome the opportunity to do so again if given the opportunity. No evidence exists for delaying skin-to-skin care until a mother and her baby are in a recovery room.
What mothers and babies need most after birth is each other, with unlimited opportunities for skin-to-skin care and breastfeeding. When health professionals respect, honor, and support the physiologic need that mothers and babies have for each other after birth, they also improve the short- and long-term health outcomes for mothers and babies. Preventing separation except for compelling medical indications is an essential safe and healthy birth practice and an ethical responsibility of health-care professionals.
Information taken from an article written by Jeannette T. Crenshaw, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, IBCLC, FAAN, LCCE, FACCE
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