September 11, 2008
The importance of skin to skin contact
There are now a multitude of studies that show that mothers and babies should be together, skin to skin (baby naked, not wrapped in a blanket), immediately after birth, as well as later. The baby is happier, the baby’s temperature is more stable and more normal, the baby’s heart and breathing rates are more stable and more normal, and the baby’s blood sugar is more elevated. Not only that, skin to skin contact immediately after birth allows the baby to be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother. This, plus breastfeeding, are thought to be important in the prevention of allergic diseases. When a baby is put into an incubator, his skin and gut are often colonized by bacteria different from his mother’s.
We now know that this is true not only for the baby born at term and in good health, but also even for the premature baby. Skin to skin contact and Kangaroo Mother Care can contribute much to the care of the premature baby. Even babies on oxygen can be cared for skin to skin, and this helps reduce their needs for oxygen, and keeps them more stable in other ways as well.
There is no reason that the vast majority of babies cannot be skin to skin with the mother immediately after birth for at least an hour. Hospital routines, such as weighing the baby, should not take precedence.
The baby should be dried off and put on the mother. Nobody should be pushing the baby to do anything. The mother and baby should just be left in peace to enjoy each other’s company. The eyedrops and the injection of vitamin K can wait a couple of hours. By the way, immediate skin to skin contact can also be done after cæsarean section, even while the mother is getting stitched up, unless there are medical reasons which prevent it.
Studies have shown that even premature babies, as small as 1200 g (2 lb 10 oz) are more stable metabolically (including the level of their blood sugars) and breathe better if they are skin to skin immediately after birth. The need for an intravenous infusion, oxygen therapy or a nasogastric tube, for example, or all the preceding, does not preclude skin to skin contact. Skin to skin contact is quite compatible with other measures taken to keep the baby healthy.
The importance of skin to skin contact. Revised January 2005
Written by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC. © 2005
(Reading articles such as this bring back so many memories and regrets about our experience in the hospital. My son was so very small and vulnerable, and underwent numerous painful procedures from day one ~ and I wasn't able to hold him and comfort him like a Mother should. All this due to him being on a vent, and so medically fragile, and I was terrified of hurting him. I wish our hospital would have encouraged MORE skin-to-skin contact and early bonding. I know that is exactly what my son needed, to help his neurological system cope and recover from such an early birth and trauma. As an adoptee, my heart aches for him, not having that vital closeness with me. Research has shown that preemies deal with alot of the same life-long issues that adoptees also have to overcome ~ attachment & trust issues, anxiety, depression. I still remember crying for days on end after finally bringing my son home. Asking God to heal him and help him recover from all he had endured. He is 3 yrs old now, and although he still deals with a lot, he IS still recovering, and for that, I am so thankful.
I hope each of us can make a small difference by sharing our personal experiences and how they are so similar regardless of the reason for the infant/mother separation ~ praying for much needed reform in America.)