Newborn babies can be a challenge; an ultimately rewarding challenge, but a challenge none-the-less! What if we told you there was a technique that would help your baby stay calm, improve your ability to breastfeed with confidence, and make your newborn’s vital signs more stable? Surely, you would jump at the chance to try it? Well, that technique exists, and it is really simple: early and frequent skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
There is no deep mystery behind skin-to-skin contact; it is not complicated and requires no advanced skills. It is having direct physical contact with your baby. The baby is usually naked, apart from a nappy.
Skin-to-skin contact can start immediately after birth; the baby should be dried with a blanket and placed directly on the mother’s chest between her breasts, with his or her face against the internal surface of one breast. Newborns should then be covered with a warm, dry blanket and provided with a hat to prevent excess heat loss during those first few minutes of life. Your healthcare provider will ensure that blankets do not cover the baby’s face and that his or her chin is lifted from the chest to keep the airway open.
Skin-to-skin contact does not have to be limited to the time immediately after birth, it can be done regularly during the first weeks and months of your baby’s life. You can do it exactly as described above, or hold the baby in a wrap or baby carrier, giving you the opportunity to get things done at the same time. There is no maximum time limit for skin-to-skin, you can just do it whenever you feel your baby would benefit from being held close to you. You might notice that your baby starts to root for the breast during this time, if so, offer it to them to see if they latch. This is an ideal way of calming fussy babies, or helping to understand your baby’s hunger cues in those first few weeks.
Skin-to-skin contact is a process that does not have to be restricted to being between mother and child; your husband or partner can benefit from it too. In fact, skin-to-skin is a great way of promoting a strong bond between dad and baby.
Babies born prematurely and those who spend time in the NICU can, and should, also receive skin-to-skin contact. As long as your baby is carefully positioned, taking any necessary care to avoid disturbing IV lines and monitors, even the smallest of babies can benefit from regular skin-to-skin contact. It not only promotes bonding with the mother and father, but can also assist in your baby’s recovery. In fact, often vulnerable infants in this position become less clinically stable once skin-to-skin is stopped.
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