The welcome which a baby receives as she comes out of the womb and into the world has a lasting and profound impact on her overall health and well-being.
The first hour is a crucial hour for the newborn as she is ejected from the comfort cocoon that was the womb into the cold and sterile hospital surroundings. Skin-to-skin contact with the mother at this stage helps to calm the baby.
What exactly is skin-to-skin contact?
Skin-to-skin care, or “Kangaroo Care,” means placing the dried and unclothed baby on her mother’s bare chest with a light blanket covering the baby’s body. Routine check-up of the mother and the baby can be conducted during this period, or it can be postponed till later.
Benefits of skin-to-skin contact:
- Several research studies have conclusively shown that babies who are given skin-to-skin contact immediately post birth show better physiological stability. Human touch helps stabilize the newborn’s respiration, increases glucose levels, gives warmth and regulates blood pressure.
- An infant separated from the mother or the ‘host,’ experiences physiological and psychological withdrawal, in addition to the anxiety of being removed from a stable and warm environment. At this stage, skin-to-skin contact established with the mother goes a long way in soothing the baby. The reassuring contact eases the separation process as the child is released from the umbilical cord and graduates from being ‘one’ organism with the mother to ‘another’.
- Oxytocin, or the ‘love hormone’ released during skin-to-skin contact helps mother and child bond better. Mothers who have cradled their newborn post birth are more likely to feel confident in their parenting abilities. Lack of skin-to-skin bonding and early separation of mother and baby may delay crucial maternal-infant bonding and may even negatively impact the mother’s response to her baby.
- Another very powerful and positive impact of establishing skin-to-skin contact after birth is that it facilitates breastfeeding. Mammals are born with the instinctive urge to breastfeed. When placed against the mother as soon as they are born they are able to find the breast and self-attach. Research shows that women who had skin-to-skin contact with their naked babies right after birth breastfeed longer and typically breastfeed months longer than mothers who did not get a chance to establish this contact.
Undoubtedly, the benefits of mother and baby skin-to-skin contact are manifold and far-reaching. Perhaps it is time to consider introducing this age-old tradition back in the modern delivery process. Hospitals and clinics must actively make use of this ‘golden hour’ or the first sixty minutes immediately post birth. Skin-to-skin contact should be established immediately after birth and should last for at least sixty minutes. This is a no-cost initiative which positively affects maternal and child outcomes.
Skin-to-skin bonding is a natural process which, over the years somehow de-linked from the clinical birthing process. Now is the time to actively introduce it back in the delivery and childbirth process.
Skin-to-skin contact is not yet very common in India. Now is the time to lobby to bring it into the mainstream! Did you get to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby right after delivery? Share your delivery story with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and be featured on our website!