The importance of skin-on-skin contact after birth

I thought that placing the baby on the mother’s chest immediately after birth was standard practice.

Whilst common in the UK, skin-on-skin contact immediately after birth is not all that common in the US – the number of hospitals that implemented skin-on-skin contact for women and babies within 2 hours after an uncomplicated vaginal birth or a caesarean section is below the 50 per cent mark.

The importance of skin-on-skin contact after birth seems obvious. Sounds like health care professionals need to check out Kate Ogg’s story! – If one of you mummy pals has not yet referred you to the amazing video of Kate Ogg cuddling her supposedly deceased baby back to life you really must do a google search.

The story goes: Kate Ogg gave birth to twins. One twin (a little girl called Emily) was born healthy but her brother was declared dead by doctors after failed attempts to revive the new little life.

Wanting to say goodbye to her baby, to meet him and tell him that his mum and dad loved him, so Kate spent the next two hours holding him, skin-to-skin. Whilst cuddling son Jaime to her skin, the little guy started making twitching, jerking movements, which the docs explained away as reflex movements.

But the movements became more frequent and then Jaime opened his eyes and started breathing. Doctors were shocked!

Wow! – Right!?

It’s a beautiful story, and although what happened to Kate Ogg is truly special and vastly unique, the value of that skin-on-skin bonding time immediately after birth is poignant – if Kate had not cuddled her son for as long as she did, who knows what may have happened?

Skin-on-skin contact is usually between the baby’s front and the mum’s chest – and the more skin the better! The International Breastfeeding Centre says that there are a load of studies that attest to the benefits of skin-on-skin contact between mum and baby immediately after birth – baby is happier; his temperature, heart and breathing rates, are more stable and more normal; and his blood sugar is more elevated. Not only that, skin to skin contact immediately after birth allows the baby to be colonised by the same bacteria as the mother, which, along with breastfeeding, is thought to thought to be important in the prevention of allergic diseases.

There is a movement that is gaining in popularity in parenting circles, known as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC). Skin-on-skin contact is the first step in KMC’s three-step process; the second is exclusive breastfeeding an the third is support (meaning that whatever is needed for the medical, emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing of mother and baby is provided to them, without separating them). The aim of KMC is to nurture the health and wellbeing of a new baby eliminating the stress caused by separation at birth. KMC can be used on both full-term and prem babies.

Skin-on-skin contact is also great for daddy bonding time!

For more information in skin-on-skin contact, read “The Importance of Skin to Skin Contact” on the IBC website, and visit Kangaroomothercare.com to find out more about KMC.