Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kangaroo care / Skin-to-Skin contact

I decided to do a piece today about the benefits and effects of skin-to-skin contact or as referred to as Kangaroo Care, between mother and newborn baby. This topic will discuss how skin-to-skin contact impacts early and successful breastfeeding initiation and extends exclusive breastfeeding duration.

Skin-to-skin contact has become more widely accepted and implemented into hospital policies because of it's many benefits. The World Health Organization launched a "Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative" in the '90 and so began the implementation of such practices as the above mentioned. For the history of the BFHI go here

So, let's go straight to the benefits of undisturbed Kangaroo Care for at least an hour after birth

*Babies are more likely to latch and get a proper latch
*The baby is less likely to cry
* The baby is more likely to breastfeed exclusively longer
*If left undisturbed, the healthy term baby takes an average of one (1) hour to orientate to the breast, attach and start to breastfeed.(This is known as the Breast Crawl in which a newborn infant literally crawls to his mothers breast unassisted in search for nourishment)Babies affected by medications used during labor and birth may require longer than one hour
*Baby adapts better, stabilizes temperature, breathing, heart rate and blood sugar levels
*Mother and baby imprinting is fostered with baby using the strongest newborn sense- smell
*Baby's hand and mouth contact with the nipple stimulates maternal oxytocin to enhance uterine contractions, milk let-down and mother-baby interaction and bonding.

Initiating breastfeeding after a vaginal birth

Unless a medically indicated procedure is required, ,immediate skin-to-skin contact with the mother is facilitated and continues undisturbed until the baby has had the first breastfeed, even if mother and baby has to be transferred. The baby is allowed to follow the normal sequence of innate feeding behaviors and initiates breastfeeding when ready.The staff should provide assistance by keeping the mother and baby together and encouraging the mother to recognize and respond to her baby's innate feeding behaviors

Initiating breastfeeding after a cesarean birth
Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby should preferably be initiated in the theatre suite. Where this is not possible, a mother who has not had a general anesthetic is in skin-to-skin contact with her baby within 10 minutes of the time she arrives in recovery, unless a medically indicated procedure is required. A mother who has had general anesthetic should have skin-to-skin contact within 10 minutes of being able to respond to her baby. And the same protocol is followed as with a vaginal birth.

I would like to add though, that Kangaroo Care's benefits does not end once you get home. Regularly having skin-to-skin contact at home in the weeks and months to come is just as important and beneficial for mother and infant as it was right after the baby's birth

And how do we do it here in Aruba?
Having all of this said, I would like to apply this locally. In Aruba, unfortunately we do not have such a breastfeeding friendly hospital. Where skin-to-skin contact is concerned, my ob/gyn did place my daughter on my chest (not my bare chest though, and my daughter was wrapped up in a blanket because it was freezing in the L&D room. However, my daughter was taken away after about 5-10 minutes to be measured etc. I've spoken to our one and only IBCLC and RLDN (Registered Labor and Delivery Nurse)Marlene Giel, and she's explained to me that although they do encourage and implement kangaroo care to some extent, much improvement is to be made. She also explained to me that the HOH(Aruba's hospital) is in the process of adopting the BFHI (Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative). One day, hopefully soon, we will see more mothers enjoying skin-to-skin contact without unnecessary interruptions, more mothers having the choice to room in with their baby without having to be in a first class room. And more mothers enjoying holding their precious little ones without the snarl of "If you hold her, you'll spoil the baby".

To close this topic, Here I leave you with the most heart warming story I've read about a mother's love, read Carolyn Isbister's story about how skin-to-skin contact saved her severely premature baby's life

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