Babies come into this world straight from the safety and security of the uterus and it’s no exaggeration to say that that transition is a stressful one. Then, in many cases, hospital procedures that involve weighing, measuring and cleaning baby straight after delivery, delay mum and baby’s skin-on-skin time, which causes further trauma and can have short- and long-term consequences.
Evidence shows that newborns who are placed straight with their mothers after birth have better respiratory, temperature and glucose stability. They also cry less, which shows that their stress levels decrease significantly when placed with mum. Ultimately, an undisturbed hour after birth is a critical period that should not be delayed unless mum or baby are in need of medical assistance. To get more information about the benefits of an undistrubed hour after birth we caught up with antenatal/postnatal doula and breastfeeding counsellor, Andrea Allen of The Doting Doulas. Here is what she had to say…
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #1: Baby can go straight to mum
When babies are first born there is a tendency for doctors or midwives to whisk them away in order to check things like breathing, alertness and startle reflex. However, this can all be done in a few brief seconds after birth, so unless there is a medical emergency, there is no reason to delay handing baby straight to mum. I always recommend that as baby is delivered he/she is handed straight to mum and laid on either her tummy or chest, depending on the length of the umbilical cord.
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #2: Baby can initiate breast feeding
It’s important to be aware that not all babies nurse within the first hour. If there has been no medication during the labour then baby may breastfeed quite quickly. However, if there has been medication or if baby is just tired it might take a little longer. The most important thing to be aware of is that babies will tell you when they are ready and in many cases they will find their own way. For example, if a baby is placed skin to skin with their mother they will smell the milk and colostrum and their instinct is to literally crawl to the breast and attach themselves to the nipple.
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #3: An immunity boost
When babies are born they emerge from a near-sterile environment in the uterus. They’ve never been exposed to any germs, so the fewer people that handle them the better. When placed skin to skin with mum, baby is exposed to her bacteria, which along with her milk really helps to get the immune system working.
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #4: Better rates of breastfeeding
I am a trained breastfeeding counselor, however there is rarely a cause for me to get involved in latching a baby at birth. The reason for this is that early skin-to-skin contact boosts breast milk supply and helps both mum and baby adjust to breastfeeding properly. Of course, sometimes assistance is needed, but for the most part I believe in being hands off and letting baby and mum find their way.
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #5: Natural pain relief
When a mum touches or holds her baby oxytocin is released . Commonly known as the hormone of love, oxytocin has been shown to reduce pain, which is hugely beneficial to mum at a time when she may be feeling some discomfort following the birth .
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #6: It helps to dispel the placenta
In addition to pain relief, oxytocin also aids with detaching the placenta because it speeds up contractions. Along with this, skin-to-skin contact also helps, particularly when baby is placed on mum’s tummy, because baby’s movements provide gentle stimulation of the uterus, which in turn gets the placenta moving.
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #7: It promotes bonding
Prolonged skin-to-skin contact after birth allows mum and baby to get to know each other. Baby recognises mum very quickly through the sound of her voice, the touch of her skin and the smell of her milk. Because of this, staying close to mum during that crucial first hour helps to create a feeling of safety, which is key for bonding.
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #8: Permits body system regulation
Babies who experience skin-to-skin contact in the first hour after birth are better able to control their temperature and respiration. This practice was originally pioneered in the 1990s by Dr Nils Bergman, a Swedish specialist who was working in a remote part of Africa . Incubators for newborns were limited at the hospital where he practiced and he observed that skin-to-skin contact helped to regulate a baby’s heart rates, as well as stabilising their breathing. Since then it has become a technique used throughout the world.
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #9: Dad can bond too
Whilst we talk so much about skin to skin time with mum, we must not forget or underestimate the importance and benefits of skin to skin with dad. During the first hour after birth I encourage all of my dad’s to have skin-to-skin time with baby after birth too. Again, this helps to boost baby’s immune system, but more importantly it really helps to bond baby and dad.
Benefits of an undisturbed hour after birth #10: It’s important after C-sections too
If for any reason you have a cesarean birth skin to skin is still possible as long as mum and baby are both well and it is something you should definitely explore with your OBGYN prior to delivery.