Nearly every picture you see of a hospital birth looks like the one above. Mom is in an uber-cool hospital gown with her new baby wrapped and packaged up tighter than fragile oversees cargo. I understand not wanting strangers' germs on the baby... but the mother's too?
Here's a list of several reasons why you as the mom who just gave birth should put or throw away that blanket and opt for skin-to-skin contact
- First of all, you waited nine months (or more) to finally be able to hold the baby. To touch its skin and revel in his smell. You've patiently waited to pinch its rosey cheeks and stroke your fingers across his back, and now immediately after birth you're going to allow them to cover and bundle your baby up and leave only his head (which also has a cap on it) to stick out?! You've got to be joking me. If I am not the one who "caught" my baby, hand me the baby, step away, keep your receiving blankets and help me get my gown off (this is if I am not already naked) and put that darn baby against my warm and loving breasts! Don't act like you've never heard of Breastcrawl
- Look at the experience from your baby's standpoint. You've been living in the only place you can remember. It's dark, warm, and cozy. You've never been hungry, you've never seen light or been overwhelmed. Then progressively and yet suddenly, you're being squeezed, your head is being molded to pass through a very tight and snug fit. BAM. All of a sudden, you hit the COLD. There's lights. Hands touching you. HUNGER hits you and you just plain feel confused. If your mother accepted any pain relief, you probably feel lethargic but overstimulated all at once. You know from before birth who your mama is and you KNOW she ain't the one handling you, pricking you, dropping crap in your eyes and scrubbing you like soap scum in her shower. So WHO is this THEN?! No clue, some random stranger that took you and whisked you away. You FINALLY reach back to your mom, only to realize you are swimming in blankets, thick, heavy, delicious mommy's breast smell blocking blankets. Oh yay... Your mom is trying her best to get you to nurse, but with all this fluff around you, you can't barely move, you can't grab on to your liking, and you can't get your hands on her body or breasts. To top it off, remember you're lethargic? You're sleepy, confused, overstimulated and you just want to be close to your mom, her warmth and her breasts. Doesn't feel so nice eh? Just another reason to get rid of those blankets
- Skin-to-skin contact promotes breastfeeding and bonding between mom and baby. The first two hours immediately following birth are crucial in establishing breastfeeding. In harmony with this is also not to wash your breasts or the baby. Emerging research is showing a greater link between the smell of amniotic fluid, the oily secretions of your breast (so not the colostrum itself) and the ease in which a baby can find and accept its mother's nipple. A friend of mine recently gave birth at home and the baby was not bathed for a few days, and the baby had that delicious newborn smell. To tell you the truth, the baby smelled like a cookie. I could've eaten the baby up. In any case. Two studies, prompted by scientists' awareness of the tendency for newborn mamals to find the smell of amniotic fluid attractive, considered the issue of smell in human infants. In one study, mothers and babies were kept together, and the mothers washed one of their breasts. More than seventy percent of the babies moved towards the unwashed breast (2). Another study separated babies from their mothers and placed them in a cot with a breast pad carrying their mothers' odor a few inches away from their nose. The same babies were also given a clean breast pad. Not suprisingly, most of the babies moved toward the pad that smelled like their mother" (3). Yet another reason to get baby naked (or at least in diapers) and put him against your bare chest.
- Even if your baby reached full term, he will still have to learn how to regulate his body temperature. Providing skin-to-skin contact will help your baby warm up and stay warm. Even in extreme cases such as this one, it may even save your baby's life.
Even though some compelling reasons were listed above as to 'Why' skin-to-skin contact, nothing can surpass a mother's intuitive and instinctual wisdom to keep her baby close to her chest and heart. Isn't it logical?
(1) Ferber, S.g., and R. Makhoul. The effect of skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care) shortly after birth on the neurobehavioral reponses of the term newborn: a randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics. 2004; 113(4): 858-865
(2) Varendi, H., and R.H. Prter, et al. Does the newborn find the nipple by smell? Lancet. 1994; 344 (8928) : 989-990
(3) Varendi, H., and R.H. Porter. Breast odour as the only maternal stimulus elicits crawling toward the odour source. Acta Paediatrica. 2001; 90(4): 372-375.