Comforting baby through skin-to-skin contact

AndieM.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200

Moments after birth your new babe is wiped off and put into your arms. Did you know that this is also an important part of the breastfeeding process? Skin to skin contact is when your naked  baby (diaper and head cap only) is placed directly on your bare chest. A blanket covering your baby and you is then placed on top, to keep you both warm. This important first connection is a special time when your baby is first meeting his family. Skin to skin contact promotes bonding between you and your baby, helps lower your baby’s stress levels and is an important first step in your breastfeeding journey.

Evidence shows that babies who have early skin to skin contact, keeping mother and baby together during and after birth, promotes greater breastfeeding outcomes. Babies are born with the instinct to be placed in this position and perform the “breast crawl” to move down to the breast to breastfeed for the first time. It is during this time that your baby’s breastfeeding reflexes come alive; some of which include familiarization with the nipple and breast as well as suckling.

The research also shows that even babies who are born prematurely are more metabolically stable and breathe better if they are skin to skin immediately after birth, if the baby is medically able. The same is true for post cesarean births. Skin to skin contact can begin in the operating room when mom is alert and responsive. It is important that mom be alert and have someone else in the room who is available should any emergency arise.

Skin to skin contact during the weeks and months postpartum, can last as long as mom and baby are comfortable. It stimulates the let down process in breastfeeding and continues the bonding process. Partners can also partake in the skin to skin process to promote bonding and the feeling of comfort and safety between them and your baby. Non breastfeeding moms can also share in this wonderful experience and bond with baby, as well.

What to Do

Make sure your birth plan includes putting baby skin to skin immediately after birth. In most birth circumstances, even c-sections, babies can be put skin to skin without any issue. . If mom is under heavy anesthesia or sedation,  you may need to recover a bit before skin to skin, and/or be supervised while doing skin to skin. Dad/partner/birthing coach can do skin to skin while mom is recovering.

Practice proper technique. Make sure mom  and baby are truly chest to chest, with no clothing or blanket between skin.  A diaper and head cap is fine for baby. Both can be covered with a blanket if the room is cold. If baby is not attempting to breastfeed, make sure his head is turned to the side. If baby is on mom, make sure he is between, not on, mom’s breasts.

If you’re sleepy, make sure that someone is alert and supervising the interaction. In this cozy situation, it’s easy to drift off to sleep, but for safety’s sake, make sure someone is supervising you while you are doing skin to skin with your baby, especially if you are under the influence of any sedatives.