Skin to Skin Contact

 

Image from Kangaroomothercare.com
Image from Kangaroomothercare.com

As mum to 4 year old Charlotte, skin to skin contact[i] (SSC) has to be my favourite way to soothe her, even now when she’s upset. She instinctively searches for mine or her dad’s skin when she’s tired, unwell or simply feeling in need of comfort. And I love that physical contact. It’s always felt really empowering as a mum being able to soothe her with something as simple and available as my skin. I was lucky to have been able to have skin to skin contact as soon as she was born, which I feel sure helped to support our early bonding.

There’s plenty of evidence”[ii],[iii] to support how powerful early skin to skin contact can be:

Babies interacted more with their mothers Babies cried less than babies receiving usual hospital care Mothers were more likely to breastfeed in the first one to four months, and tended to breastfeed longer
The baby’s heart and breathing rates are more stable and more normal The baby’s temperature is more stable and more normal The baby’s blood sugar is higher
The baby can be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother[ii] Having the same colonised bacteria plus breastfeeding are thought to be important in the prevention of allergic diseases Babies are more likely to latch on, and to latch on well
Babies are more likely to breastfeed exclusively and for longer Especially in resource-constrained settings, Kangaroo Care (of which the main component is SSC) has been shown to reduce mortality and morbidity in low birth weight babies, as well as increasing mother satisfaction[i][ii] Babies are happier!

Kangaroo Care image from Save the Children
Image from Kangaroomothercare.com

The World Health Organisation (WHO) actually recommends skin to skin contact being routine practice:

“On the basis of this evidence, SSC should be routine practice. […] Routine tasks such as measuring and observing the baby could be done with the baby on the mother’s chest. Weighing the baby could be delayed or done at the bedside with a minimal period of separation.”[i]

Personally I’m hugely grateful to the NHS for delivering Charlotte safely and for looking after us both so well. Yet I do remember feeling in hospital that we were a bit rushed and we were only given a few minutes of skin to skin contact together, as she was then taken off my chest to be checked and weighed. I also don’t ever remember being educated by my NCT classes or by any of the midwives that I saw during my pregnancy of the benefits of skin to skin contact. I’d learnt about Kangaroo Care through working in international public health, so I did understand the benefits of skin to skin contact before becoming pregnant. But it does make me wonder how well known these benefits are to parents generally.

Having delivered Charlotte in a very busy maternity department, and also having worked in patient experience in the NHS I understand some of the pressures facing midwifery teams, maternity departments, and the pressure to get mums up and out of the delivery suite as soon as possible. But I also wonder if there is anything more that could be done to foster increased skin to skin contact time in the first few hours that babies are born. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this!

Helen Merati

Public health professional and Independent Consultant with Arbonne

Helenmerati@myarbonne.co.uk

 

References

 

 

 

 

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