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Importance of Skin-to-Skin Contact

In the few minutes after birth, your newborn baby is stimulated to breathe, the amniotic fluid is dried off so she doesn’t lose heat, and she is carefully observed during the transition process. At this point, if all is going well, your newborn baby should be placed on your chest, preferably skin-to-skin.

Newborn babies who are placed in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers within the first few minutes of birth cry very rarely during the first hour or two of life. When a newborn baby is placed, skin-to-skin, on her mother’s chest, there is less of a chance for the temperature to drop. Also, when a newborn baby is placed in skin-to-skin contact and her arms and legs are free to move, she will maneuver in her own way towards her mother’s nipple, and start to suck when she is ready. This is a very moving experience for most parents, if they are given this opportunity.

In up to 10% of all deliveries, babies have a bowel movement called meconium prior to delivery. Babies born through this meconium-stained amniotic fluid are at increased risk of having breathing problems if chunks of meconium enter their lungs before or after delivery. Your health care provider may need to clear your baby’s mouth and nose and ensure normal breathing prior to skin-to-skin time. This process is important to ensure your baby’s safety

Some hospitals have a policy of tightly wrapping the newborn baby in swaddling cloth before giving her to mother. Swaddling can help to soothe newborn babies and make them feel safe and secure. However, if you feel strongly about having skin-to-skin contact in the first few minutes after birth, make sure to arrange this with your health care providers ahead of time.

Andrew James, MBChB, MBI, FRACP, FRCPC