We hear a lot about holding your baby skin to skin for an hour or more immediately after baby is born. Do you know why?
There are a number of reason why doing skin to skin with baby immediately after birth is important. It helps release oxytocin- the love hormone- in both baby and parent to assist with bonding and helping to calm both parent and baby. Stress hormones like adrenaline are present during the pushing stage to give the birthing parent energy and determination to push baby out. Your baby will also gets this hormone, too. According to Hope Parish- who is certified by the International Kangaroo Care Foundation and founder of NuRoo Skin To Skin shirts- without skin to skin, it can keep those stress hormones high and destabilize baby's health.
"When baby is skin to skin with the birthing parent stress hormones drop by 72% within the first 10-20 minutes," they explained.
At a conference in 2016, Hope Parish also stated, "Oxytocin enhances the neurological pathways and fosters brain maturation by increasing the complexity and connectivity leading to accelerated brain development."
First of all, such a thing will lead to smarter babies, In addition, oxytocin also increases baby's pain threshold. This particular fact is helpful when babies receive their vaccinations. Asking to have baby skin to skin when they receive their vitamin K shot after birth means they may cry less, or not at all.
Skin to skin will also help colonize baby to your own bacteria, which will help their immunity. It will also help initiate breastfeeding, normalize baby's glucose levels, improve digestion and increased weight gain at a time when the baby is more likely to lose weight. The oxytocin that's released will also help your body release prolactin- a hormone needed for milk production- and can help your mature milk come in faster and be more abundant.
One of the most fascinating benefits of skin to skin is the birthing parent's ability to thermoregulate and stablize baby's temperature after transitioning out of the warm womb to the cold labour and delivery room. Studies have shown that babies will warm up quicker when they are skin to skin with the birthing parent than they would in an incubator under a warmer, or swaddled completely from head to toe. When babies lose body heat. they'll begin to stress, shiver, and their glucose levels go down. This can all spiral into a separation of baby and parents, and the use of formula to stabilize baby.
Your body will also work the other way, too. If your baby becomes too hot, your body will actually cool down to draw heat away from baby and help stabilize their temperature to where it should be. What's even more fascinating is that the birthing parent's body is bilaterally thermoregulating. This means that if you have twins and one baby is too cold, one half of your chest will heat up and if the other baby is too hot, the other side will cool down. Your body knows exactly what your baby needs. How incredible is that?
If the birthing parent is unable to do skin to skin with baby immediately after birth- such in the case of a cesarean birth- the non-birthing parent can easily do skin to skin. Particularly in the OR, if baby is stable, the hospital staff can do baby skin to skin with the partner and wrap a warm blanket around both to keep them warm. However, male partners and other family members are non-thermoregulating, and have a limited amount of time to do skin to skin before both baby and the non-birthing family member are getting too hot for one another. 90 minutes seems to be the limit. So, if you're starting to feel too hot and sweaty, it's time to pass the baby to the birth parent, or swaddle them up for a nice nap.
All of these benefits occur not just in the first hour after birth, but whenever you do skin to skin with your baby. So when you get home, having baby on you, wearing baby, or keeping them close to your chest will help you both transition into this new life together more easily with less crying and stress.