Supercharged cuddles - also known as skin to skin. Do you really know what this means? And what the benefits are? How does it work? How long should my baby stay there? Can my partner still cut the cord? These are some common questions new parents ask.
Skin to skin is a term that is often mentioned briefly during pregnancy. Perhaps a friend mentioned it, or more than likely your midwife or obstetrician may have told you about it. But most of the time its not discussed in depth, and the actual logistics and benefits are not explored. It is becoming recommend practice in most hospitals as part of the Baby Friendly Health Initiative, so it is an important part of your birth to consider.
The way that I like to describe skin to skin is Supercharged Cuddles - as this is exactly what skin to skin is to your baby.
If you would like skin to skin, when your baby is born he/she will be placed straight onto your chest/stomach and will then be gently rubbed and dried off with a towel, while still remaining on your chest. It is ideal if they can be placed directly on your skin, but you can also wriggle your top out of the way after your baby is placed on your chest. They will be warm, slippery and wet, and may even have a little blood on them, but most of this will be gently wiped off with the towel - so don't worry! You and your partner can help lift them onto your chest, and the cord can be cut while baby remains on your chest. Your baby is super happy here, and it is recommended that they stay skin to skin for at least an hour. Often in this time they will bob their head around and begin feeding. This is a really great video of the birth crawl and baby led attachment.
So logistically how does it work? What if I have a caesarean?
Skin to skin can be initiated no matter what position you give birth in. If you're kneeling or on all fours, your baby will be passed through your legs and then you can bring baby up to your chest. If you are standing your baby can also be passed to you, and then you can shuffle to the bed or somewhere more comfortable. Likewise if you are in the shower. If you have a water birth, you can easily lift your baby up to your chest. Your midwife or obstetrician can always help you if you feel like you are in an awkward position and would like assistance. You can absolutely have skin to skin if you have an epidural, or if you are choosing not to breastfeed. If you have a caesarean it is likely that baby will be checked over quickly on a cot and then brought over to you. At this point baby can be placed against your skin under your gown, and your partner can help to support baby. There is lots of progress being made in this area, and hopefully in the future we will be able to have immediate skin to skin without interfering with the surgery/sterile field! Check out ‘the maternal assisted caesarean’ for more information. If your baby is premature you can usually still have skin to skin, but this is dependant on baby’s condition when they are born. Similarly, if your baby needs assistance when they are first born skin to skin may be delayed. Even if you can have a short period of skin to skin it is hugely beneficial!
What if i cant have skin to skin straight away?
Skin to skin can be done any time and with both parents. If skin to skin is delayed for any reason, or you are separated from your baby, don't stress! You can start skin to skin as soon as you can and there will still be loads of benefits. The nursery where I currently work specifically encourages skin to skin on a daily basis because it is well known that there are so many benefits. It doesn't have to be difficult, you can just strip off your top half (or some layers), wrap a blanket or towel around you, and place your beautiful baby on your chest. They will love it! Whether they are there for 10 minutes or a whole hour it is still so beneficial.
Skin to skin is an absolutely beautiful time. Your baby discovers your face for the very first time, and you (and your partner!) get to meet the little one that you have been waiting for. Even if there are other things going on in the room, all your baby cares about is staring into your eyes, smelling your skin and learning who you are! Pretty awesome if you ask me!
Did you have skin to skin with your baby? I would love to hear your thoughts.
As always, this gorgeous photo were taken by Victoria from Adelaide Birth Photographer and used with permission.