Whether you’re planning to have a cesarean section or it happens unexpectedly, you can still have skin-to-skin time with baby shortly afterward, maybe immediately. Your hospital may not do this as a norm, so definitely have this conversation with your care provider during prenatal appointments, as you plan your birth.
Skin-to-skin (STS) is also called “kangaroo care”, and why not? With your bare baby laying against your bare chest and covered with a blanket to keep you both warm, he sure looks as cozy as a Joey in his mama’s big pouch.
Just to clarify, though: placing a bare baby on top of your hospital gown, or a dressed baby on your bare skin doesn’t qualify as STS.
Maybe we can call it skin-to-style, but it doesn’t confer the same benefits as direct STS.
Types of STS
According to Evidence-Based Birth, there are three kinds of skin-to-skin time:
- Birth (immediate) skin-to-skin time begins as soon as baby is born and put immediately onto mom’s bare chest then covered with warm blankets
- Very Early skin-to-skin time begins 30-40 minutes after birth
- Early skin-to-skin time is any time within the first 24 hours when mom and baby are bare skinned, with baby laying on mom
What’s the Big Deal with STS?
As of 2015, 83% of US hospitals practice STS after vaginal births.
A lot of research has been done on the many benefits of STS time for mom and baby:
- Newborn babies have great sensitivity in response to stimuli, and mom’s scent, temperature, and feel are the most soothing.
- As mom gazes at her new baby, STS stimulates oxytocin (the “love hormone”) production in her, making her fall in love with her baby.
- STS helps mothers and babies bond, making mom more protective and likely to care for her child.
- STS lowers stress for both mom and baby (the longer the STS time, the lower the stress).
- Babies with STS time cry less (12 times less!), have greater breathing and heart rate stability, more stable blood glucose levels, and better temperature regulation.
- Breastfeeding is more successful when started in the immediate STS time.
- STS enhances breastfeeding and stimulates the crawling reflex in babies for finding mom’s nipple.
- Mom’s microbiome enhances baby’s microbiome with beneficial flora/bacteria.
- Moms have less breast engorgement or pain three days after birth.
- Moms feel more satisfied with their birth experience.
That’s a lot of advantages for a small amount of quiet time!
Be sure your final birth plan says you want immediate or very early STS, to start you and baby off with your best breast forward.
The Cesarean Dilemma
In many cases, a healthy baby born by cesarean section is immediately taken to a warmer or the nursery where she’s
In the nursery, it’s common for her to get a bottle of sugar water instead of first filling her teeny stomach with her mother’s superfood—colostrum.
Meanwhile, mom is taken to her recovery room where she won’t see her baby for about two hours. Ouch!
But all this isn’t necessary if mom and baby are both healthy.
Those examinations can wait until after mom and baby have fallen in love during a good dose of immediate STS time.
In the US, 70% of hospitals now practice STS within 30-50 minutes after an uncomplicated cesarean birth. This is great news!
Some moms will be recovering from the effects of drugs or exhaustion and won’t be able to take care of their baby immediately. But maybe STS time is possible if a nurse monitors or assists them.
Or, baby could be handed to dad or partner for kangaroo care until mom is ready. This lucky person should be bare-chested for direct skin contact.
After a C-section, it’s extra important that mom and baby stay together, a process called “couplet care.” Research shows that babies who have STS time after a cesarean have less need for NICU care, which reduces hospital costs.
But couplet care is still rather new, and many hospitals don’t do it because it’s inconvenient for staff.
So, you or your partner may have to advocate for it. One good way to do that is to talk about this with your care provider during your prenatals, so you are both on the same page.
And mention in your birth plan listed on your hospital bag checklist that, in the case of a cesarean section, you want couplet care.
The best birth plans go out the window in the face of unexpected events.
But with good communication between you and your care provider, even an emergency C-section won’t stop you and baby snuggling together, bare naked and cozy under the covers, for some healing, strengthening skin-to-skin time.
And falling in love.
To learn more about skin-to-skin, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.
This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.
Published: May 7, 2018 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: May, 2018