Why is it important to have early skin-to-skin contact with my baby?
Post delivery, after your baby is thoroughly dried, your baby should be placed, tummy facing you, on the skin of your chest with a prewarmed blanket covered across your baby’s back. It is better to have skin-to-skin contact with your baby sooner rather than later. In fact, the timing of this contact may be important because most infants are very alert in the first 2 hours postbirth and, if undisturbed and unmedicated, will self-attach correctly to the nipple at approximately an hour postbirth. Both you and your baby will benefit greatly from this simple interaction.
Benefits of early skin-to-skin contact
There are short-term and long-term benefits to early skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby. For one, being in your arms in the first hour encourages natural breastfeeding. Your baby is more likely to latch on to your nipples and to latch on properly too. Establishing latching this early will also increase the chances of your baby to breastfeed for a longer period of time.
Aside from breastfeeding advantages, your baby will also be able to maintain a normal body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure as he or she rests on your body. This in turn stabilizes your baby’s blood sugars. Your body warmth and rhythms will also help to keep your baby calm so he or she will cry less.
Baby’s instinctive breast crawl
You may be feeling anxious about your baby’s ability to breastfeed. There is absolutely no need for worry! All that is needed is some patience. Babies naturally know how to breastfeed, but must be given time to do so.
Once your baby is put on your body, it will take some time for him or her to orientate to the new environment outside of the womb. If your baby does not take your nipple in the first minutes, it is to be expected! Give your baby time to bond with you, and to start feeling calm, familiar and more comfortable with his or her surroundings.
Though it may take up to an hour or even two, if left alone on your body, your baby will very likely reach for your nipple and start to suckle. This is known as the instinctive breast crawl. You can click here to watch a video about the instinctive breastcrawl:
Potential difficulties in early suckling
If you have had a caesarean birth, breastfeeding might be difficult at the onset because both you and your baby are still feeling the effects of the drugs necessary for the surgery to take place. However, it will take place! Again, some patience is needed. In fact, your baby can still be put on you even while you are still having your caesarean wound stitched up.
Skin-to-skin contact after a caesarean birth is usually delayed more because of the culture in the operating theatre rather than any proven dangers. While your baby’s temperature might be lower than the temperature of a baby born naturally, so long as your baby is wrapped well in blankets after being cleaned, this should not be a reason to keep your baby away from you. All in all, if your baby is born via a caesarean-section birth, he or she should still enjoy the benefits of early skin-to-skin contact if possible.
Sometimes, even with a natural birth, your baby will also be taken away for routine checks and other hospital procedures. As your baby’s mother, you have the choice to request for having early skin-to-skin contact with your baby.