At Women’s & Children’s Hospital, getting newborns into their mothers’ arms quickly is priority No. 1.
Women’s and Children’s new Skin to Skin initiative has put babies in their mothers’ loving embrace just minutes after birth. According to Jennifer Daigle, Women’s Well Baby Nursery, Post-Partum and Lactaction director, new mothers have welcomed the initiative with open arms. Part of the Kangaroo Care approach to childbirth, the initiative changes decades of swaddle, separate and stabilize protocols standardized in delivery and post-partum wards around the country.
“Research shows babies do much better with skin-to-skin contact. It’s been a big shift for us to rethink what we do,” says Daigle. “It only takes a few times for a nurse or doctor to watch it and see that it’s in the best interest of the patient.”
New research has indicated immense medical benefit in promoting tactile intimacy in the delivery room. In addition to establishing an early emotional connection between mother and child, the technique has been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of diabetes, infection and sudden infant death syndrome. The calming presence of a mother’s heartbeat and breath also helps ease the newborn’s first moments on the outside, acclimating the child to the transition from womb to world. Babies who enjoy immediate skin-to-skin contact with their mothers have an easier time latching for breastfeeding, promoting nutritional and immunological health at an earlier stage of life. The benefits aren’t just for baby either. Studies have shown skin-to-skin contact reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer for new moms.
The initiative at Woman’s is part of a broader national trend toward skin-to-skin contact for all birth methods, including mothers who deliver by caesarian section. While the technique may seem obvious, standard practice for all deliveries prior to the adoption of skin-to-skin methods kept newborns separate from their parents for hours and even days at a time, with only a cursory cuddle available while the child was bundled and covered. This created distance between mother and child at a time when newborns are most active and aware, according to Daigle, making later connections less effective between new moms and sleepier newborns. The practice was thought to provide time for babies to “stabilize.” But Daigle says research shows babies do pretty well on their own when they are in their mothers’ loving arms.
“We don’t give babies enough credit for that,” she says.
By removing the barrier to parental intimacy from hours to minutes, the skin-toskin initiative has ensured the mother and child reunion is only a motion away.