There are several articles on the internet about the benefits of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby in the first few hours after birth or when baby is born prematurely. Benefits such as regulation of body temperature, decreased levels of cortisol, increased mother-baby bonding and more chances of success in breastfeeding when skin to skin happens in the so-called “golden hour” have been proven by science.
In this post I want to talk about the importance of a lot of cuddling and skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby at postpartum in general, not only in the first hours, especially for breastfeeding. This is relevant because some people still have the idea that babies can be spoiled if they get to be held a lot, that they should soon learn to sleep on their own, that they cry just for whims, misconceptions that we would like to clarify.
As a postpartum doula who also supports breastfeeding I have already come across cases where certain difficulties in breastfeeding did not fit into any scientific explanation – to name a few, the latch was correct, baby was breastfed on demand, didn’t use a dummy or bottles (so no nipple confusion to be considered), mother had a good diet, doctor/nurse assured baby was healthy, but baby didn’t seem satisfied at all, cried a lot, nursed quietly for only a few minutes, then became restless… a stressful situation for the whole family.
A first attitude to be taken in this case is to cuddle baby, to make a lot of skin to skin, maybe mother and baby can have a bath together… Subtle energies that need to connect strongly, oxytocin that may need more stimulation to be produced… and this can be achieved with lots of skin to skin and physical contact, we repeat.
The Benefits of Skin to Skin
The more skin to skin, without clothes, without barriers, and the less smells (deodorants, perfumes), the better. The warmth and heartbeat of the mother soothe the baby, baby’s breathing follows almost the same rhythm as that of the mother, and the pheromones released in this relationship make it stronger. In addition, the calm and soothing voice of the mother, who can talk or sing to the baby, helps promote the safety baby needs.
What about babies who wake up very frequently during the night?
Another quite common situation is when baby wakes up every hour to nurse during the night in the first few weeks. Even though it’s normal for little babies to wake up several times, when that persists, I see extremely tired and sensitive women who are almost desperate for a solution to that situation. Our first recommendation? Lots of cuddles for baby during the day will make him/her feel very safe and he/she may not have the need to wake up so often during the night. In this specific situation, if that doesn’t work, I’d keep the cuddles happening but, as a holistic sleep consultant, I’d have other gentle and respectful tips to give you (click here to know more).
“But how am I going to hold my baby even more than I already do?” Slings and carriers are a great choice, even for some skin to skin!
If you are experiencing any of the above difficulties, try to put these recommendations into practice! You will see that some challenges can be overcome with something relatively simple, that is within reach of any mum in the postpartum period!