Skin to skin sounds pretty simple however there are a lot of changes that happen in the postpartum person and the baby when they decide to engage in it.
Skin to skin happens immediately after delivery, the baby comes out and is placed right on the mom’s bare chest for at least one to two hours. If the baby is born vaginally then they are laid vertically, and if the baby is born via C-section the baby can be laid higher or horizontally. If the mom has to go in for emergency surgery the dad, partner, or support person is encouraged to perform it because the baby will still reap the benefits.
There are a lot of benefits for you and baby.
- Skin to skin can cause various hormones to be released or reduced, the most common are:
- Oxytocin; also known as the love/closeness hormone. Oxytocin can be released when you touch, look at, or breastfeed your baby. This helps with contractions that help shrink the uterus after delivery, with breastfeeding specifically with milk ejection, and helps with feelings of closeness.
- Endorphins; which helps with a sense of calmness. Endorphins are connected to an increase in “motherhood/closeness” feelings. They also cause an increase of temperature in your breasts that help keep your baby warm.
- Lower levels of stress hormones. With the increase in Oxytocin and Endorphins in you and baby, the body can reset itself to predelivery “settings” more rapidly.
- Blood sugar levels are higher and more stable in babies who are held skin to skin.
- Speaking of keeping your baby warm, it’s been found that skin to skin is more effective in keeping your baby warm, in comparison to warming beds.
- With the baby being placed against your bare skin they will be exposed to the normal healthy bacteria on your skin, which helps increase their immune system.
- Lastly, if you want to enter a breastfeeding relationship then skin to skin can help facilitate it. Typically within what is called, The Magical Hour the baby may instinctively latch on to the breast for their first feeding. (If they don’t latch by themselves, don’t worry! Remember every baby is different.)
The main drawback of engaging in skin to skin contact may be how long it takes, which can be draining for you after X hours of labor, or a C-section. If you opt out of skin to skin immediately after birth, because you want a chance to rest, you can alway engage in it later. The benefits may not be exactly the same but your hormones will still elevate and you’ll be able to enjoy the experience without the exhaustion.
Sources: Care Practice #6