[This piece was written by Carla Barberis-Ryan, MHSA, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Director, Women’s & Children’s Services at St. Peter’s Hospital.]
It wasn’t so long ago that, following the birth of a baby in the hospital, babies and their families were separated during the hospital stay. The reasons were many, but the consensus nowadays – unless a medical condition indicates otherwise – is that it’s best for parents and their healthy babies to stay together after birth.
One of the best things new moms (and their partners) can do with their healthy newborn is provide skin-to-skin contact early and often. That means the baby is placed belly-down, directly on mom’s chest, right after birth. Often referred to as “Kangaroo Care,” this skin-to-skin contact simulates a “Kangaroo-type” setting which is beneficial through its focus on relaxation and bonding between infant and mom.
According to the World Health Organization, babies who are regularly held skin-to-skin stay warmer and calmer, cry less, and have better blood sugars compared to babies who are swaddled or kept in a crib.
Skin-to-skin contact has been shown to help newborns:
- Maintain body warmth
- Regulate breathing patterns
- Stabilize heart rate
- Improve oxygen levels
- Have calmer and deeper sleep periods
- Gain weight more rapidly
- Increase blood sugar levels
- Possibly have a shorter hospital stay
Regular skin-to-skin contact also has a positive effect on breastfeeding. Countless research studies have shown skin-to-skin babies breastfeed better, due to the benefits of bonding, skin contact, and nuzzling with their parents.
Skin to skin contact isn’t just important for the baby. Studies show that mom benefits from the bonding time, as well, with skin to skin contact creating a strong sense of intimacy that:
- Helps to regulate hormones, increasing oxytocin (which reduces maternal and newborn stress) and prolactin (for milk production)
- Reduces the incidence of postpartum hemorrhage
Parents of premature infants are also encouraged to utilize Kangaroo Care. When providing this skin-to-skin contact, the parent will be near the infant’s isolette or crib, so the baby can remain hooked up to necessary monitors and equipment. The length of time and frequency of the skin to skin contact will depend on how well the infant tolerates it.
St. Peter’s Hospital recently received the 2019 Women’s Choice Award as one of America’s Best Hospitals for obstetrics for the fifth consecutive year. St. Peter’s was also the first hospital in the Capital Region to earn the international “Baby-Friendly” hospital designation.
For information on delivering a baby at St. Peter’s Hospital, as well as breastfeeding, placental donation, infant care, or parenting classes, please call 518-525-1388 or visit https://www.sphp.com/womens-childrens-sph.
From all of us here at St. Peter’s Hospital, best wishes to all the moms for a very happy Mother’s Day!