What is skin-to-skin contact following birth?

Women's Care
Feb 13, 2020

A lot has changed in labor and delivery over the last couple of decades, and chances are your mom’s birthing experience was a lot different than yours was or will be.

One such change is skin-to-skin contact. Skin-to-skin care is placing your unwrapped baby directly on your bare skin – typically on the belly to chest area – immediately following birth, explains Jennifer Povanda, BSN, RNC-OB, CEFM, Telfair Birth Place Labor & Delivery Nurse Manager.

Now, most of us know what a baby looks like directly out of the womb, but nurses will wipe the baby down and put a diaper on first, Povanda assures moms-to-be.

Before skin-to-skin grew in popularity, babies were cleaned and placed in a warmer. A doctor would assess the baby and then baby would be given to mom to hold, typically wrapped in a blanket. This lasted for about an hour before baby went off to the nursery and mom to her room.

Today, as long as babies are stable and over 35 weeks, they spend an hour with mom doing skin-to-skin and then stay in the room with mom until discharged. Continued skin-to-skin contact is encouraged as often as possible during mom and baby’s stay.

Related Article: What to expect after delivering your baby at the Telfair BirthPlace

So why the change to skin-to-skin contact? Evidence-based practice shows there are many benefits to immediate skin-to-skin care, including:

  • Enhanced bonding
  • Soothes and calms mom and baby
  • Helps regulate baby’s temperature, heart rate and blood flow, breathing and blood sugar
  • Supports breastfeeding

“It really helps with that transition from in utero to outside,” Povanda says. “Even later when you give them a vaccine or shot, if you put baby skin-to-skin with mom, they handle it so much better.”

Related Article: Five tips to be successful at breastfeeding

That isn’t to say that if mom chooses not to do skin-to-skin or isn’t well enough to do it, that anything will be wrong with the baby. St. Joseph’s/Candler has the staff and tools in place to help take care of baby.

Even dad can step in. If mom, for example, is sick off the anesthesia following delivery or maybe was put to sleep for an emergency C-section, as long as baby is stable, dad can do skin-to-skin, Povanda says.

“Just by going skin-to-skin and hearing dad’s heart beat and letting them be nice and warm makes an impact. Your temperature is regulating their temperature.”

Skin-to-skin is even possible with twins or triplets, as long as they are at least 35 weeks and in stable condition. Babies born under 35 weeks go to our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for needed care and attention. Babies born between 35 and 37 weeks also need a close eye as they are still not full-term, but skin-to-skin contact is a great way for your medical team to closely watch both baby and mom, Povanda says.

If you have any questions about skin-to-skin be sure to talk to your OB/GYN. To learn more about the Telfair BirthPlace, please visit our website.

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