Do you remember when your baby was born? The doctor or midwife announced the arrival and gave you a quick peek of the child you just labored to bring into the world. Then the baby was whisked away to be cleaned up, weighed, measured and assessed. After an hour or so, a sweet little bundle in a knit hat and flannel blanked with blue and pink stripes was placed in your arms, and you got to properly meet your baby.
Today, medical professionals are recognizing that the first hour after birth is an important time for mother and baby to bond. In many hospitals, they no longer rush to assess babies and complete the checklist of newborn tasks. Instead, they give newborns a chance to acclimate to life outside the womb with a period of skin-to-skin contact with their mother.
You’ll be glad to know the little knit cap is still in the picture! Babies are dried off and placed on their mother’s bare chest, wearing only the cap. A blanket is draped over them, and mother and baby spend up to an hour or more simply enjoying each other.
This intimate time of relaxation is about more than bonding: it has immediate effects on baby’s physical, emotional and social development. According to research, contact with the mother’s skin stimulates the part of a baby’s brain that causes him to move towards the breast and begin feeding. This encourages physical development. Emotional and social development is sparked when the baby opens her eyes and gazes at her mother. What’s more, this period of skin-to-skin contact improves the outcome for both mother and baby.
Benefits of Skin-to-skin Following Birth
Studies have shown that skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth helps mothers by increasing oxytocin, resulting in lower blood pressure, a quicker return to pre-pregnancy hormone levels and lower incidence of post-partum depression. It can reduce post-partum bleeding, increase breastmilk production and improve breastfeeding outcomes.
For baby, the list of benefits is even longer.
Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth has been shown to improve babies’ ability to absorb and digest nutrients and maintain their body temperature. Their heartbeat and breathing are more stable and they have higher blood oxygen levels. These babies are more successful at breastfeeding immediately after birth, and demonstrate improved weight gain. They spend more time in the crucial deep sleep and quiet alert states and even cry less often.
There are also long-term benefits of skin-to-skin contact, such as improved brain development and function and better parent attachment. Surprisingly, skin-to-skin contact has even been linked to stronger immune systems.
So why do grandparents need to know about this? Because the key to realizing these benefits is letting mother and baby enjoy this window of time without distraction. Grandparents are not part of the equation, and allowing space for parents to bond with their baby is the first generous act you can complete as a grandparent.
If you are lucky enough to be there for the delivery, this means you can help improve the health of both mother and baby by removing yourself from the room. As hard as it might be to tear yourself away, you can give your new grandchild and its parents an enormous gift by stepping away. Go get a cup of coffee and call your best friend with the news (but don’t post it on social media until you’ve been given the green light by parents!). Take a walk and dream about all the things you want to do as a grandparent.
If you aren’t there for the birth, don’t be hurt if you have to wait for a FaceTime call or visit. Your chance to get to know your new grandchild will come soon enough.
And it will definitely be worth the wait.
Wondering what else new grandparents need to know? New Grandparent Essentials is the fastest way to get up to speed on the latest trends and safety information. Get your copy now!