As an expectant mother nears the end of her pregnancy, she begins to prepare herself mentally and physically for the upcoming birth of her baby. She often daydreams about holding her baby in her arms for the first time immediately after birth.
It is instinctive for new mothers to want to hold their babies close, nourish them and keep them safe and warm.
In recent years, studies have shown what mothers have known in their hearts since the beginning of time: that skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth is best for mothers and their healthy babies.
Skin-to-skin contact helps keep babies warm and cry less. They have more stable blood-sugar levels, sleep more and are interested in breastfeeding sooner than newborns who are separated from their mothers.
During the past couple of years, the nursing and physician team at Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Family Birth Place have integrated immediate skin-to-skin contact as a standard of care for healthy babies born by vaginal birth.
Because we strongly believe in the importance of providing safe, quality, family-centered maternity care, we always are looking for ways to improve the services we provide. Recent efforts have been focused on cesarean section birth.
When a C-section becomes necessary, it often brings an unexpected and unwelcomed separation of the mother from her newborn. So in fall, we began an exciting new initiative to extend our skin-to-skin efforts into the operating room with a goal of encouraging a gentle transition to life outside the womb for healthy moms and healthy babies born by C-section.
Leslie Gumbrecht, of Steamboat Springs, gave birth to her second son by repeat C-section on Nov. 30. When it became clear that she and her baby were medically stable immediately after delivery, we decided to begin the initiative.
Gumbrecht had previously had an emergency C-section in 2008. Although she saw her newborn son immediately, she didn’t get to hold or nurse him until an hour after her surgery. Her 2010 planned C-section experience was quite different.
“I was surprised and thrilled when Alethea asked if I’d like to try and nurse our son right there in the (operating room) just minutes after he was born,” Gumbrecht said. “Those 20 minutes had a hugely positive impact on my husband, son and me, and we are grateful to have had a nurse who seized the opportunity to provide us with that experience.”
First-time mom Kelly Bastone gave birth to her daughter by C-section on Dec. 23.
“It was incredibly meaningful to have Simone with me immediately after her birth,” Bastone said. “That very special moment of togetherness is what so many mothers look forward to, and I did, too. After nine months of pregnancy and the effort of labor, it felt like a huge reward to finally touch our baby, to face her and have her in my arms.
“A cesarean birth really enforces a distance between mom and child, but the opportunity to embrace Simone right away really did help me overcome those feelings of alienation,” Bastone continued. “It allowed me to be one of the first to welcome her into the world, which is, I think, a mother’s right — it’s something all moms hope for.”
YVMC Family Birth Place nurses are excited to be part of this progressive change. Few hospitals in the U.S. are offering skin-to-skin contact for mothers and babies in the operating room, and we are one of the first hospitals in Colorado to initiate this practice.
Family Birth Place registered nurse Kristi Tullis loves witnessing the bonding and connectedness that skin-to-skin promotes.
“It makes the surgical birth experience so much more personal and meaningful,” Tullis said.
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact extend well beyond the first hours after birth; therefore, we encourage minimal separation of mom and baby during the hospital stay. Rooming-in allows mothers to learn their baby’s cues more quickly and thus gain confidence in caring for and soothing their infants.
Studies suggest that with extended skin-to-skin contact the mother’s milk supply comes in sooner and more abundantly. Breastfeeding continues longer and is more exclusive (without formula supplementation).
Skin-to-skin contact also has been shown to increase a mother’s sensitivity to her baby, reduce feelings of postpartum depression and improve many mother-infant interactions.
The Family Birth Place staff strongly encourages all new moms to try skin-to-skin contact with their infants as soon as possible after delivery, and as often as possible during the days and weeks after birth.
Alethea Stone, RN, is a registered nurse at Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Family Birth Place. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.