A newborn baby lies on the chest of a new mother skin-to-skin; their heartbeats keep the time — together. The nurse takes the baby’s temperature while the baby relaxes on the mother’s chest and administers a vitamin K shot without so much as a whimper from the baby.
Babies who spend the first 90 minutes after birth skin-to-skin with their mothers cry less and have more success breastfeeding than babies who are dried, wrapped and placed into a warmer. Skin-to-skin time promotes strong bonding between the mother and newborn baby, better temperature regulation for the infant than a traditional infant warmer as well as stabilizes a baby’s heart rate, breathing and blood sugar levels.
Current research has demonstrated that the first few hours after delivery are precious moments, crucial for the unique physical and emotional needs of the new mother-baby couple. A newborn baby is very alert. Even though, they can only see clearly for about 8-12 inches, they can mimic a mother’s facial expressions. Skin-to-skin allows the infant time to respond to a mother’s voice and touch, which helps trigger a strong physical response and boosts the baby’s immune system.
For a time, mothers who gave birth by C-section were denied skin-to-skin time during their newborns first 90 minutes of life, which left some mothers feeling more like surgery patients rather than new moms.
“This was standard C-section delivery practice,” says Laurale Cross, administrative director of Women’s Services at Valley View.
Nurses at Valley View were reviewing a recent patient’s feedback and noticing the negative experience expressed by the new mother when her baby was immediately separated from her after her C-section. The nurses ask, “Why can’t we just put the baby with the mom no matter how the baby is delivered?”
As luck would have it, a physician from Valley View had been researching skin-to-skin and was very interested in becoming the first mom to experience skin-to-skin after cesarean. Two days after the successful birth of the physician’s child, a mother-to-be came to Valley View with the same intention; stating, “I want to do that thing where they place the baby on my chest immediately after the C-section.” After the first two successes, skin-to-skin became something Valley View “just did” as everyone in the delivery room saw how essential and powerful immediate touch was. The transition into practice was seamless.
A growing number of hospitals are now offering skin-to-skin options for mothers who have C-sections, with creative descriptions like “family-centered” or “gentle cesarean.” There’s even a “movement” to get hospitals nationwide to adopt the skin-to-skin practice to bring back that humanistic touch into the delivery room.
Placing a newborn baby on the chest of its mother is powerful medicine for Mom. Even in the few instances where new mothers not feeling well enough to hold their newborn, their partners would remove their shirts and rest the newborn child on their chest, which creates a loving bond with the partner, the newborn and the onlooking mother.
“It turns out our bodies are pretty smart,” says nurse Laurale Cross. “If we let technology take a side-step, listen to our bodies, wonderful things can happen.” What’s so wonderful is the power of skin-to-skin between mother (or partner) and infant, immediately after birth and throughout their stay at the hospital.
Parenthood is a journey like no other. To learn more about the benefits of skin-to-skin and other programs offered by the Family Birthplace at Valley View please visit vvh.org/birthplace.