We asked Lesley Gilchrist from My Expert Midwife her thoughts on the importance of skin to skin contact with your newborn, and exactly how soon after the birth this should happen.
What is Skin to Skin Contact?
When baby is born, he or she will be wet and they’re liable to get cold very quickly. Skin to skin contact uses your body heat to help to maintain that of your baby’s. They can’t make their own at this stage and can get poorly very quickly if they’re cold.
As your baby is born he or she will be placed directly onto your tummy and your midwife will help you dry your baby and cover him or her with a blanket
- It’s best to do skin to skin contact for at least one hour
- If your baby is small you may be advised to continue this for as long as possible
- If you’re breastfeeding you’ll be advised to continue until at least the first breastfeed
- If you don’t feel up to it your partner can do it instead
Why do Skin to Skin Contact?
Apart from helping to keep baby warm there are other reasons why skin to skin is good for both of you:
- It helps to cover your baby’s skin in your friendly bacteria
- It helps baby to regulate their breathing
- They feel safe, so they’re calm and settled; they know your heartbeat and breathing sounds, and the sound of your voice
- It’s brilliant for bonding, for both of you
Do I Need to Request it?
Nowadays midwives and doctors will always offer skin to skin contact, they know the benefits. Sometimes though problems with baby may have been picked up either in pregnancy or in labour so ask your midwife what will happen in these situations and whether skin to skin contact can still be done.
What Checks Need to be Done Straightaway?
There aren’t any routine checks that can’t wait. Even weighing baby can wait for at least 1 hour. The routine top to toe check of baby can be done while baby is on your tummy, however if there are any concerns about baby your midwife or doctor may wish to check baby over more closely and move baby to an assessment and treatment area. Even your checks can be done with baby skin to skin.
What if I Need a Caesarean Section?
If you need a caesarean section then the priority will always be yours and your baby’s health. As with any operation there is a risk of infection and because of this everyone around you will be sterile. If baby is well and there are no concerns then skin to skin contact can still be done, it just takes a little more planning.
Once the decision for caesarean has been made tell your midwife your wishes for skin to skin contact. If everything goes smoothly there’s no reason why skin to skin contact can’t be done in the operating theatre. The planning would go something like this:
- Wear your theatre gown like a dressing gown so that you can easily place baby onto your skin
- The anaesthetic team will make sure that all the equipment that’s needed to monitor you in theatre is either on your arms or back
- Your midwife would wear sterile gloves and gown or have a sterile drape placed over the cot
- Once baby is handed to your midwife he or she is placed directly onto your chest (very high up though as he or she needs to be kept away from the operation site
- Baby is then covered with a blanket
Lesley Gilchrist – Midwife and birth-trauma expert
Lesley is a registered, practising midwife – with both private and NHS experience – as well as joint brand founder of My Expert Midwife, a pre-and-post natal product range which tackles taboos for new and expectant mums. As well as being an expert in the effects and treatment of birth trauma, anxiety and depression, Lesley is a registered hypnobirthing teacher.
More information about Lesley can be found at www.myexpertmidwife.com or on social media: