The first hour after birth is known as the Magic Hour. This is an exciting occasion as the family meets the new addition, and babies get their first experience of the world outside the womb.
Research shows the best way to spend the first hour with your baby is against your bare chest; she should be wearing only a diaper. This is called skin-to-skin contact, because your baby’s bare skin is against your bare skin. When researchers measured the stress level of newborn babies, they found the lowest level of stress in babies that spent the most time skin-to-skin with mom (or even dad!). The highest stress levels were measured in babies that were separated from their moms in the nursery.
Most mammals, like humans, are in close contact with their young immediately after birth. Having your baby against your skin lets you share body heat to keep your baby warm. Your baby can hear your heart beat, your voice and other familiar sounds that have comforted her as she grew into your beautiful baby.
The positive effect of skin-to-skin contact on breastfeeding is strong. Newborn babies on mom’s bare chest will often begin breastfeeding without any help. Check out this video of a newborn finding the nipple and latching unassisted. http://www.breastcrawl.org/video.shtml
Research shows the longer a baby stays skin-to-skin immediately after birth, the longer breastfeeding lasts. When your baby has easy access to breastfeeding, he will do it frequently, helping establish a strong milk supply and more successful breastfeeding.
If you want to have your baby skin-to-skin after he is born, let your birth partner and hospital staff know your wishes. Give instructions to wipe off your baby, put on a diaper on her and place her on your bare chest. If you have a caesarian (C-section) you can still hold your baby skin-to-skin after birth, in the operating room – so be sure to ask for it!
Below is a short list of the benefits of skin-to-skin contact after birth-
• Warmth, as you share your body heat.
• Stability of heartbeat and breathing as your baby is more relaxed, feeling safe and comfortable.
• Increased time spent in the deep sleep, the restorative sleep that prepares her body and mind to learn and grow.
• Increased time spent in the quiet alert phase, this is the observation time when your baby uses her senses to learn about the world.
• Less crying as your baby feels safe, warm and her needs are met
• Increased weight gain, your baby is breastfeeding as needed.
If your hospital doesn’t offer skin-to-skin, ask for it – for the health of you and your baby.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015). About Skin to Skin Care. https://healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/preemie/Pages/About...
Leslie Bramson, Jerry W. Lee, Elizabeth Moore, Susanne Montgomery, Christine Neish, Khaled Bahjri, and Carolyn Lopez Melcher. (2010). Effect of Early Skin-to-Skin Mother—Infant Contact During the First 3 Hours vol. 26, 2: pp. 130-137., first published on January 28, 2010