Skin-to-skin contact with your newborn baby

October 26

Skin-to-skin contact with your newborn baby

15 min read By Karen McEwen, Registered Midwife

What is skin-to-skin contact?

When your baby is born, he or she will be wet and they can become cold very quickly. Skin-to-skin contact uses your body heat to help to maintain a normal body temperature for your baby, as this is something they’re not able to do well on their own at first.

 As your baby is born they are placed directly onto your tummy and your midwife will help you dry your baby, hold them close and keep warm with a dry towel or blanket. 

How long is it best to do skin-to-skin for?

  • 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 it’s recommended to continue until at least the first breastfeed
  • If you don’t feel up to it your partner can do skin-to-skin 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 develop your baby’s microbiome which are the friendly bacteria we all have and need for healthy skin
  • It keeps baby close to the breast to help establish breastfeeding
  • Your baby feels safe, so they’re calm and settle more easily as they know your heartbeat and breathing sounds, and the sound of your voice
  • It’s great to promote the hormone oxytocin which not only helps bonding, but can reduce bleeding and help breastmilk to flow


Do I need to request it?

Midwives and doctors should always offer skin-to-skin contact, they know it has great  benefits for mums and babies. If your baby needs any help with their breathing or other treatment after birth it may not be possible immediately after the birth, but your midwife will help you to have skin-to-skin contact as soon as they are confident your baby is stable. 

 

What checks need to be done straight away?

There aren’t any routine checks that cannot wait until mum and baby have had a period of skin-to-skin contact. 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. If there are any concerns about your baby your midwife or doctor may wish to check baby over more closely and move baby to an assessment and treatment area. If you need any checks these can be done with baby skin to skin.

 

What if I need a caesarean section?

If you need a C-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 those doing the surgery will be sterile. If your 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, or if you’re having a planned C-section, 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. 

Here’s how immediate skin-to-skin can be done at C-section:

  • Wear your theatre gown like a dressing gown so that you can easily place baby onto your skin
  • Let the anaesthetic team know and they will make sure that all the monitoring equipment needed for you in theatre is either on your arms or back
  • Your midwife wears sterile gloves and a gown or there is a sterile drape placed over the cot for when the surgeon passes your baby
  • Once your baby is handed to the midwife they can be placed directly onto your chest (fairly high up though so they are away from the operation site)