Skin to skin
Skin to skin - Transcript
In many of my videos, I encourage mothers and babies to do lots and lots of skin to skin time. And that means stripping your baby down to the nappy, lying your baby against your bare chest – this is normal biology.
There are lots of studies showing immense benefits of skin to skin for all babies, irrespective of whether your baby has been born full term, or premature, or maybe you had a Caesarean; it’s still possible to do skin to skin after a procedure like that too.
And when you think about it, all mammals tend to keep their young next to them after the birth, in really close contact. And if your cat has a kitten, for instance, you don’t tend to take the kitten away from the mother cat, and the same with puppies, you tend to keep them with the mother in that close contact for quite a substantial amount of time.
In nature, we know that when mothers and babies are together, they interact with each other and lots of physiological things are happening, and we know that there are higher levels of stress when babies are separated from their mothers.
So, I want to talk to you about the wonderful benefits of doing skin to skin with your baby. After the birth, skin to skin immediately in that first hour can be really beneficial in helping your baby to latch on, and to latch on better too.
And we know from studies that skin to skin encourages your baby’s pre-feeding behaviours, which lead to that latching, and all the innate reflexes kick in as well, so baby’s are thinking about latching on, and skin to skin is facilitating that.
And of course, a good latch means that your baby will drain the breast better, and when the breast is drained better, your body makes more milk, your baby gets more too. And not only that, but the skin to skin itself boosts the hormones involved in milk production, and particularly prolactin. Even if you’re pumping your milk and you do skin to skin, the prolactin that is boosted will help you to produce a better yield of milk when you pump your milk after a time of skin to skin.
And another great thing about skin to skin is that it can help to control your baby’s temperature. We know that babies initially are not able to do this very well themselves. This is called thermal regulation.
And skin to skin also does an amazing job of maintaining all of your baby’s vital signs, so heart rate, and breathing, and oxygen levels, blood sugar levels, all of these things are much more stable when babies are skin to skin with their mums.
And it’s fantastic to know that skin to skin will release wonderful hormones that keep you both calm and connected. Sometimes it can be quite fraught when you’re breastfeeding, and spending time in skin to skin will help to calm your baby down, and calm babies latch better too. So, not only will you feel relaxed, so will your baby.
Many studies are showing that lots and lots of skin to skin will help you and your baby to form a really good, secure attachment for the future. And coupled with that, skin to skin has been shown to help babies to develop their brain while they’re in close contact with the mothers, and this is irrespective of the milk itself.
And not only that but doing skin to skin just after the birth, for instance, helps your baby to get colonized with your own bacteria – and this is a positive thing. It helps to prevent disease.
It’s also really great to know that if you happen to be suffering from postnatal depression, or certainly low in mood after having a baby, skin to skin will help to reduce that anxiety and reduce the symptoms of postnatal depression too.
And studies are also positive showing the really good benefit of dad’s doing skin to skin with babies too. This helps to calm the baby, and it really promotes that bonding as well, between the two of them.
And remember that even if your baby has been born prematurely, you can do skin to skin. This is actually termed “kangaroo care”, and babies have been shown to be much more stable with their heart rate and their breathing and their oxygen levels, even if they happened to be attached to monitors and things like that, you can still have that wonderful, close contact with your baby.
So the staff can help you to place your baby’s bare chest against your bare chest, usually remaining in a nappy and a hat. And it might be that you even have your baby inside an oversized nighty, so that you can still have your baby close that way.
And of course, even premature babies, when they’re placed to skin to skin with their mum’s, may start to look around for the breast, head bobbing, little twisty head movements, and you can allow your baby just to come near to the breast and to have a practice there.
Finally, it’s really important to reiterate that if your baby for whatever reason is not latching at the breast, whether premature or full term, despite the skin to skin, then pumping your milk with a really good quality double hospital pump is a very good way to keep your supply up – an important way.
So please look at all the related videos in this section, which will help you to gain more information. But know that the skin to skin will help to boost your supply and keep you both calm and connected in the process.
Review dates, references & further resources
V1 published June 2017. Next review date: April 2020
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