I saw a lovely family this week, at about 21 hours postpartum, that had concerns from their first child. They thought a visit to the hospital in the first day would help make them feel confident. Also, they wanted to prevent the most common breastfeeding challenges–jaundice, low blood sugar and excess weight loss. They knew that these three common reasons for early supplementation could begin a cycle of feeding, supplementing, and pumping. This supplementation cycle feels like there’s no moment between steps to sleep, shower, or get fresh air!
Their little guy was born quickly, and latched on right away. He drank, but it hurt and there wasn’t a lot of swallows right away. Luckily, in our prenatal session we discussed how magical skin to skin contact is for the baby. It can even help prevent these most common newborn challenges. Keeping her baby skin to skin would provide not only comfort, but energy too. Energy is needed to sustain the many vitals and metabolic processes that keep her baby safe and growing. Skin to skin would help regulate heart rate, temperature, and breathing. Unfortunately, we know this doesn’t happen when babies are swaddled and put into bassinets. (See this post for more info on getting great sleep)
While she worked hard feeding her baby, he was snug and conserving all that energy while her body kept his vitals stable. This is much more effective than letting her baby waste energy trying to stay stable away from her! He was able to conserve all that good food energy while she kept him warm.
Despite a day of not feeding well, her baby lost just 3.6% birth weight, was peeing and pooing appropriately, and had no signs of jaundice or poor blood sugars! When I saw that thriving 21-hour-old baby, I knew that kid had benefited from unlimited, uninterrupted skin to skin contact. He was thriving, and after our visit, was also drinking well without causing any soreness for his mother. What a gift!! Skin to skin saved the day, and skilled IBCLC support saved the mother’s poor nipples from further damage.
Skin to skin can be difficult in those days following birth. Parents are exhausted, often hospital culture still swaddles and compartmentalizes babies, and hospital beds aren’t a safe place for bed-sharing. That said, there are so many ways families can safely and effectively provide skin to skin contact for their little one!
Some tips for you to consider:
1. Mom isn’t the only one who can offer skin to skin support! The partner, auntie, and grandpa can too. Anyone has the ability to provide skin to skin care. Immediate family members are more likely to also have the normal family gut cultures to support the infants’ microbiome. Trade off skin to skin care among family so the new parents can take turns sleeping and eating.
2. Learn how to use a baby wrap (or purchase a skin to skin shirt or wrap such as the Sleep Belt)! These products, when used properly and according to manufacturers guidelines, can provide you a hands-free way to give your baby the best skin to skin start–while eating that glorious sandwich! Most cities will have a babywearing group where educators can help you understand how to use these products properly and safely. Babies love being snug in a carrier, hearing your heart, and enjoying your movement!
3. Remember that skin to skin changes the PLACE of care, but not the TYPE of care! If your baby is in need of any special care, such as monitors or breathing support, skin to skin is still possible! Dr Nils Bergman has done extensive work on providing skin to skin support in NICU’s and with compromised babies. He outlines how to ensure unlimited, uninterrupted skin to skin care with preemies and other babies in need of this support at www.kangaroomothercare.com.
These tips can help you give your baby the best start in life by providing life-sustaining skin to skin support between excellent, effective feedings! Between energy from your milk and your body, you will help your breastfeeding relationship and help prevent the most common newborn challenges that lead to supplementation. Let yourself enjoy these moments as you breathe your baby in and learn each other well. They won’t last forever!
For more information on skin to skin care, check out this other awesome post!
Edith Kernerman, IBCLC and President of Breastfeeding Inc, talks a LOT about skin to skin care in her Parenting 101 course! Check it out for detailed instructions and benefits!
Ashley Pickett, IBCLC