Skin to skin is when your naked little, fresh-out-of-the-oven bub lays on a bare chest.
In an ideal world, baby is on mum’s chest, however, another parent or a sibling or an aunt or uncle will do quite nicely too, if for whatever reason mum isn’t able.
Skin to skin can be classed in to three timeframes (with the general consensus being the sooner and longer the better!)
- Immediate – within the first minute after birth
- Very early – begins 30-40 minutes after birth
- Early – any skin to skin that takes place in the first 24 hours
The first hour or 2 after birth is often referred to as the ‘Golden hour’ and this is when it is most beneficial for mum and baby to have undisturbed time, laying heart to heart.
There is a magical synergy between mums’ body and their baby, and the hormones released are perfectly coordinated to optimise outcomes for both as baby transitions, making their way earth side.
Now, it would be remiss of me to talk about birth and skin to skin without talking about the wonder hormone that is oxytocin and which does after all play a key part in all aspects of the journey from lovemaking through childbirth, breastfeeding and bonding.
Oxytocin is often referred to as the love or connection hormone and skin to skin immediately after birth causes oxytocin levels to reach peak range.
Benefits of skin to skin and oxytocin release…
- Regulates baby’s heart rate and breathing
- Regulates stress levels of mother and baby
- Stabilises baby’s body temperature
- Encourages the release of prolactin (milk inducing hormone)
- Promotes initiation and instinctive breastfeeding
- Boosts mother – baby bonding
- Fosters long term mother- baby connection
It has been said that oxytocin can be a timid hormone, (unlike adrenaline for example) and only comes out to play if you’re feeling safe, relaxed, undisturbed and unobserved.
Here are some tips to boost oxytocin levels during birth:
- Create a private, warm, safe space
- Dim, ambient lightning
- Calm, soft music or just quiet
- Speaking in soft voices
- Peace and quiet- limit stimulation and disturbances
- Feeling safe and supported
- Light touch massage or loving touch from your partner to release endorphins
Not only does oxytocin impact birth and bonding, but skin to skin contact with your newborn post birth continues the body’s release of oxytocin, stimulating contractions, allowing for the placenta to come away from the uterine wall and be delivered.
You can let your care providers know that it’s a priority for you to have undisturbed skin to skin immediately after birth (assuming it’s an ‘unremarkable’/ complication free birth) and bring baby directly to your chest while you deliver the placenta…weighing and measurements can wait.
Skin to skin after a C-section is also possible and with Australia’s current caesarean section rate sitting around 36% of all births, it may be worth having the conversation with your care providers and creating a birth map that includes this as a possibility so you can be prepared for any eventuality.
Here are some things that can to help you achieve a skin to skin after a C-section:
- Request drips and devices be attached to your non dominant hand/ arm
- Request ECG stickers and cords be put on your upper back or shoulders so your chest is clear
- Wearing your gown backwards
- You can ask for a clear screen or for the drape to be lowered so you can see what’s happening (if you’re not squeamish!)
There is also such a thing as Maternal Assisted C-section which is when the obstetrician makes the incision and releases baby’s head and shoulders and then the mother is invited to reach down and guide the rest of the baby out and up on to her chest.
A key point to note with this is that infection control is one of the biggest risk factors, so you’ll need to discuss if this is an option with your care providers.
I am of the opinion that knowledge is power and that birth is something that the mother-to-be should one hundred per cent feel involved in and part of, as opposed to feeling as though it’s something that is happening to her. It is my most fervent hope that you go into your birth feeling calm, supported and informed and if there is anything I can do to help, please feel free to reach out.
My name is Daniella Casey-Lowe and I am an emerging Doula training at the Doula Training Academy with Vicki Hobbs. I am based in Adelaide and if you would like to talk more about your birthing options, please contact me: