There is one easy and simple thing to do to get breastfeeding off to a good start…..stay skin to skin with your baby for the first hour or two after birth.
Research has found that skin to skin contact between a mother and baby at birth reduces a baby’s crying and the baby is more likely to latch on and breastfeed well. Skin to skin contact helps a mother to breastfeed successfully and generally for a longer duration.
In our modern hospital birth environment there are delivery room routines and post partum routines that may disrupt the interaction between a mother and her baby. Babies may be separated from their mothers, swaddled or dressed before being returned to their mother. However this disrupts a set of innate behaviours that a baby, immediately placed skin to skin with its mother, displays.
These behaviours include - looking at mum and the breast, uncurling fists and making grasping movements towards the nipple, crawling towards the nipple, touching and licking the nipple, suckling at the breast. The baby’s instinct to suck is especially strong after birth and this can set a pattern for future feeds.
Both mother and baby benefit from skin to skin contact.
- Mothers benefit as oxytocin is released, resulting in minimisation of blood loss, reduced anxiety and enhanced attachment to their baby. Breastfeeding problems can be lessened and prevented and there can be a longer duration of breastfeeding.
- Babies benefit as they are in the “right place” for breastfeeding, they cry less, their body temperature is maintained, their blood glucose levels are more normal, innate behaviours are encouraged and they establish early effective suckling.
If you have a complicated birth or are affected by labour medications skin to skin can still be possible. However, you may require extra support to initiate skin to skin and direct supervision to help you.
There are circumstances where a mother’s or baby’s medical needs take precedence and this early skin to skin contact is not possible. All is certainly not lost and you can make up for this by keeping your baby skin to skin as often as you can, once you and your baby are able.
It’s never too late to have your baby skin to skin with you and it is a useful strategy for helping solve breastfeeding problems.
If you want to look at this topic further you will find more information at http://www.cochrane.org/CD003519/PREG_early-skin-to-skin-contact-for-mothers-and-their-healthy-newborn-infants