I have been attending women at birth for decades. It has always seemed natural to me to just put the baby up on mom’s chest or abdomen first. I would then dry and cover the baby with a warm blanket. Women seemed to want to just reach down and bring the baby up to their chest.
Today, we call this practice skin to skin care and we encourage it at all births, even Cesarean births. The baby is placed chest to chest on Mom with her baby’s face turned to one side. Research has shown that skin to skin contact between Mom and baby at birth helps to stabilize the baby’s breathing, body temperature and blood sugar levels. It offers a familiar environment in which the baby recognizes mom’s heartbeat, voice, and smell to make an easier transition to life outside the womb. It provides a calm place; it is soothing and babies cry less when on mom. The skin to skin contact helps the baby smell mom’s milk and this in turn helps initiate breastfeeding.
It has been 19 years since the birth of my daughter, yet I still recall the feeling of that warm wet baby born into my arms and placed on my abdomen, dried and covered with a warm blanket. It is a memory imprinted in my brain as my most joyous moment ever. Still attached to by her cord, she began to open her eyes and look at me, began to know me and I her. I will carry the memory forever and am so grateful for the midwife who gently and lovingly placed my baby on me.
Skin to skin care can be done anytime, not just at birth. If for some reason, you are unable to do skin to skin at birth, you may do it as soon as you are able. Dad’s can do skin to skin too. Ask your nurse to show you how. It is such a precious way for you and your baby to bond.