Snuggle Your Baby As Nature Intended
It seems like common sense. You’ve just given birth to your precious little baby. Now it’s time for the big reward after all those long, challenging months of pregnancy and seemingly endless hours of painful delivery: You get to snuggle your newborn. As the mother of four boys, I can assure you there’s nothing quite so special as the moment you hold your baby against your skin for the first time.
It’s the most natural thing in the world. Skin-to-skin, mother and child begin the crucial bonding process almost immediately. It’s one of life’s ineffable mysteries and it feels like a miracle. These special moments between mother and child seal the bond of trust and facilitate breastfeeding.
But not every mother gets to experience this fundamental connection. Women who give birth by caesarean section, for example, are occasionally prohibited from holding their newborns skin-to-skin, out of concern for the mother’s surgical wounds, or for other reasons.
This may be a mistake. There’s a reason it feels so right to snuggle one’s baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth. Research shows that it promotes bonding and helps both mother and child relax. And that can have an important effect on breastfeeding. Women who must undergo caesarean delivery frequently encounter greater difficulty breastfeeding than women who deliver vaginally.
Recently, a leading nursing journal published the findings of a quality improvement project, which concluded that skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery is an important step in promoting both breastfeeding and bonding. Infants who receive this contact sleep longer, gain weight faster, experience better brain development, and endure less cold stress. And their mothers experience less anxiety about baby’s well being.
"Nurses working in labor and birth settings should promote the practice of skin-to-skin contact between women and their newborn infants immediately following birth, given the significant health benefits associated with this experience," write the authors. "The moments right after birth represent the ideal timeframe for initiating breastfeeding, which generates important health benefits for the baby."
Judith Ann Moran-Peters, Cheryl Robyn Zauderer, Susan Goldman, Jennifer Baierlein, April Eve Smith. A Quality Improvement Project Focused on Women's Perceptions of Skin-to-Skin Contact After Cesarean Birth. Nursing for Women's Health, 2014; 18 (4): 294 DOI: 10.1111/1751-486X.12135