Skin-to-Skin: More than Just the First Few Hours After Birth
You've read about the benefits initiating skin to skin with your baby immediately after birth. It may even be common practice in your hospital. You have it written out in your birth plan. Your birth goes well and the doctor or midwife places the baby directly on your chest just moments after birth. It's wet, warm, smells unfamiliar, and is one of the best moments of your life.
There is nothing like holding your baby for the first time. As long as you and baby are doing well bonding with your baby shouldn't be interrupted for some time, at least an hour. It's becoming an experience many mothers are opting for in their birth. Even fathers are getting in on the experience after mother is finished or stepping up if mother is unable to. It's a wonderful and positive step for our maternal care here in the US! Although we are moving in the right direction in regards to our birth culture we often have a hard time focusing on a postpartum plan after the first few days following birth. After your hospital stay how often did you initiate skin to skin time with your infant? We spend so much time on our birth plan and the benefits our child may have during the time of birth and shortly after, often postpartum has no plan - a blank page. Skin to skin can become a one time thing we gave a go at birth and something easily overlooked, but I'm telling you now is doesn't have to be.
Here are some tips and easy suggestions
1. Feeding: Many lactation consultants encourage their breastfeeding mothers to use skin to skin to help establish a healthy feeding relationship and help mother's milk supply. It's easy to stop once you feel you generally "have breastfeeding figured out." I understand that it is a hassle to undress your baby and yourself all the time for a feeding but think about trying this: learn how to feed lying down and take the initiative to have a cuddle feeding session with your baby every once in awhile. You do not have to sleep or do anything you are not comfortable doing but find a comfortable safe place to lay down with baby and have skin to skin time. Every parent is different and if you are comfortable with breastsleeping this is an excellent opportunity to initiate skin to skin. Another suggestion is to half undress you and baby for skin to skin feeding time. It is very easy to lift your shirt halfway up and unbutton the baby's onesie. You are still having skin on skin but not going through the hassle of undressing all the way down.
2. Bathing: I don't know about you but I think I used a baby bath twice. I didn't like them and I felt it made my job harder than it needed to be, plus they hated it. If it works for you that's great but consider trying to bathe with your baby every once in awhile. I tend to believe it's much easier and enjoyable for the both of you. You will get a lot of great skin to skin time. There is one risk that you will have to take while bathing with a baby/toddler. POOP! Yes, it can happen but it's not THAT bad. You can minimize the risk by getting in after they have had a bowel movement or avoiding a certain time of day when you know it's coming. It is also convenient and safest to have a helper, like dad, to hand you baby and take baby after the bath.
3. Be Naked: I know that many of you have hoards of cute baby clothes that family and friends have showered you with but sometimes you just have to let them explore and play in just their diaper. As long as your house is comfortable temperature there is no need to worry about having your child clothed and dressed up every minute of the day when lounging at home. They like it, I promise. You will be able to touch and hold them skin to skin often and easily.
4. Massage: We all love a good massage, whether it's from a partner, or professional masseuse so wouldn't your baby like one too? Of course they do! Yes, they will move and squirm and perhaps not seem like they are that interested in it but it does feel good and it teaches them love through touch. They even have whole classes devoted to this topic if you are interested.
Let's do ourselves and our babies a big favor and give them more skin to skin time. Look beyond the delivery room and embrace ways we can help mom's and dad's postpartum experience. Skin to skin helps you and your baby bond, love, explore, feel safe, establish strong breastfeeding relationship, maintain good milk supply, help combat postpartum mood disorders, and build lasting relationships between mom and baby and father and baby.