The Effects of Skin-to-Skin for the Mother and Baby
The patient sat up for her spinal anesthesia. She told the doctor, “Please try not to make me numb up to my armpits.” The doc replied, “Well why not? You don’t want to be in pain!” The nurse piped up, “She’s going to put her baby skin to skin after delivery. So make sure she can feel her arms!”
This exchange may be scary to some but it was just friendly banter for me-you see I’d been the c-section nurse countless times before, and even had my patients hold their babies skin to skin a handful of times in the operating room during their c-sections but this time was different; I was the patient. My baby girl had thrown me and my husband for a loop with her breech presentation but after the initial shock had worn off we began to make plans. I already knew how lucky I was to get to have my baby surrounded not only by my true family but also by my work family so I sat down with my best friend who would be my nurse that day, and we talked.
“I want the baby skin to skin in the OR.”
“Well yeah!” she said.
“And if that doesn’t work out, I want Brian to do it.”
“Got it. No problem.”
“And I don’t want anyone going crazy with trying to get me to breastfeed her. Just lay her on me and she’ll figure it out.”
“Of course she will.” My friend said.
My older daughter, Isabella, was almost ten years old when our little Evangeline was born and the experiences were night and day. I wasn’t a nurse when Iz was born so I didn’t have the personal experience the first time around that I carry with me today. I remember her being whisked away to the warmer after I delivered and then being brought to me all snuggly in a blanket with her little pink and blue hat on. Skin to skin wasn’t the standard back then. She was bathed right away then dressed in her little tee shirt and sleep gown. I had a nurse in my room every 2 hours telling me to try and feed her. I was exhausted and frustrated.
The breastfeeding was not going well. I don’t recall anyone ever telling me to just let her lay skin to skin with me and I never figured it out for myself. I started supplementing at 2 weeks and the breastfeeding only lasted until about 10 weeks. With Evie, we were skin to skin more than we had clothes on in those first several weeks! She fed on demand and latched like a champ (after a couple visits with the lactation consultant). We did have to start supplementing once I went back to work but I’m proud to say that at 17 months, she is still nursing at bedtime and the skin to skin still works to calm her down when she’s having a fit. I really feel that the skin to skin contact is one of the factors that helped me to have such a successful breastfeeding experience this time around. I feel so fortunate that I had the opportunity to talk about my plans with my nurse and she was so supportive. I try to offer the same support to all of my patients. I look back now, as a labor nurse and a mom and realize all of the information I didn’t have as that first time mom and I try to share as much as I can with my patients every day.
A lot of women come in and are reluctant to hold their babies skin to skin for a variety of reasons. Many don’t even know it’s an option. I try to tell every patient to be open to the whole experience. Ask questions. Listen to the questions your nurse is asking you. If your nurse asks you to do something, like hold your baby skin to skin, and you aren’t sure, think about it. Listen to the benefits. Talk about it with your support people. And then make the decision that is best for you and your baby. And skin to skin is not just for breastfeeding moms! Research shows that infants held skin to skin after delivery transition to “life on the outside” with less distress. They tend to better regulate their temperature and blood sugar if they are snuggled in with mom. And if mom is unable or declines, maybe dad or another support person wants to snuggle with the baby. If you have questions, ask your doctor during your prenatal appointments. Ask your nurse when you get to the hospital. You could even ask Google! Most importantly, remember to be where your feet are on your delivery day and try to make the most of each moment because these moments only come once!