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Early skin-to-skin contact, off to a good start!

Postnatal Care

The importance of early skin to skin contact

By Calmbirth Educator Dawn Worgan

The first hour after birth is crucial for your baby’s early childhood development as well as bonding and attachment with you. Studies have shown the importance and benefits of skin to skin during this golden and precious undisturbed hour after the birth. I encourage everyone to request early skin to skin and maintain that close contact for as long as they can, however and wherever the birth takes place. The only exception would be if mother or baby were not well enough or needed urgent medical attention and then I would encourage them to do it as soon as possible, and in this instance when the mother is unavailable I encourage the partner to have that baby skin to skin instead.

And this is why, the known benefits include:

So many amazing things are happening, attachment and bonding are enhanced at this time, when both the mother and baby are in a heightened state of readiness, and the new family group get to meet each other for the first time.

  • Baby is warmer.
  • Baby is calmer.
  • Baby can hear its mother’s heart beat.
  • Baby is colonised with its own mothers harmless bacteria.
  • Promotes Initiation and duration of breastfeeding.

Baby is more likely to breastfeed successfully during their first breastfeed as they go through several steps when given the opportunity of skin to skin and will attach themselves to the breast correctly.

  • Gets Breastfeeding off to a good start
  • Their Heart and breathing rates stabilise
  • Baby has higher blood glucose levels
  • The peristalsis of the gut is stimulated and results in passage of the first bowel action which may result in the reduction of jaundice
  • Baby promptly receives the immunological benefits of colostrum
  • In the long term it Increases breastfeeding at 1 and 4 months,
  • And Increase breastfeeding duration overall by a average of 60 days
  • Not to mention as the oxytocin produced causes the contraction of the uterus the benefits to the mother include helping to expel the placenta and reduce blood loss.
  • Breast engorgement is minimised by the early and frequent removal of milk from the breast
  • Any necessary checks can usually be done with mother and baby skin to skin

The Magical hour after birth

That first hour or two after birth the baby goes through 9 stages in what has been called the magical hour after birth.

Based on the research of Ann-Marie Widström and Lars Åke Hanson
These are:

  • The Birth Cry
  • Relaxation
  • Awakening
  • Activity (Rooting, Massaging)
  • Rest
  • Crawling/sliding
  • Familiarisation
  • Suckling
  • Sleep (Usually 1½-2 hours after the birth

These stages can be in a different order or repeated during this time, it is wonderful to watch a baby do this, whether this be for real or in a video, you will be amazed!

The following link is a15 minute youtube video (in English) filmed in Uganda which goes through the 9 stages very well

Or a shorter video

which briefly shows the 9 stages and mentions the study into the potential impact of artificial oxytocin and fentanyl epidural on the babies sucking an hour after birth

Checklist for safe skin to skin:

  • Babies Face can be seen.
  • Nose and Mouth are uncovered.
  • Back and neck are aligned.
  • Head is turned to one side.
  •  Chest to chest with Mother.
  • Mother is a little upright.
  • Keep the naked baby warm with a blanket over the baby with their head uncovered.
  • Someone is paying attention to the baby not to their phone!

If the mother is exhausted or has had something that is likely to make her sleepy, and there is no other responsible adult to watch mother and baby then it is time to put baby in a safe place such as a bassinette near by.

Resources used in this Blog
Breastfeeding and Human Lactation (4th edition 2010)
Jan Riordan and Karen Wambach MA USA


The Magical Hour
Kaja Brimdyr PhD, CLC
Healthy Children Project MA USA

Skin to skin in the first hour after birth: Practical advice for staff after vaginal and cesarean birth. DVD
The Healthy Children Project

Infant assessment and reduction of sudden unexpected postnatal collapse risk during skin-to-skin contact, Susa Ludington-Hoe, Kathy Morgan. NAINR 2014; 14 (1)28-33

Cochrane, Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants
Moore ER, Bergman N, Anderson GC, Medley N. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 11. Art. No:CD003519.DOI:10:1002/14651858.CD003519.pub4



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