Skin-to-skin contact after birth is good for mother and baby

(Rayna Canedy)

Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth can be used for the promotion of breastfeeding and can result in babies a better start in life, according to a new review of existing data.

Women who have skin-to-skin contact with their naked babies immediately after delivery were more likely to breastfeed longer and breastfeed months later than women who do not have their babies placed on their skin, the researchers found.

“The more you can do to help the mother and the baby together and disturb them as little as possible in the course of that first hour, the better they be”, said lead author Elizabeth Moore, of the School of Nursing at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Moore and her colleagues write in the Cochrane Library November 25, that babies are often separated from their mothers at birth. The new review looked at whether the places of naked babies on their mother’s bare chest improved breastfeeding and other health issues.

The research was coordinated by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates and reviews medical research.

The researchers looked at the medical literature found 46 randomized controlled trials in their review. The tests included 3,850 women and their newborns from 21 countries. All babies were healthy and most were born at term.

“We compared these tests for the usual care and usual care is highly dependent on the process,” said Moore. Studies from the 1970’s may have separated mothers from their babies for hours. In more modern trials, babies can be swaddled in a blanket before being handed to the mother.

In comparison with babies and mothers who received usual care, those who received skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth were approximately 24 percent more likely to still be breastfeeding one to four months later.

Infants who have skin-to-skin care were also 32 percent more likely to successfully breastfeed on their first attempt.

There was also evidence that women who received skin-to-skin contact breastfeeding more and more inclined to exclusively breastfeed after leaving the hospital.

Evidence also suggested for babies did better after receiving skin-to-skin contact after the birth. They had higher scores on a measure assessing their heart and lung function, had higher levels of blood sugar and had a similar body temperature with their swaddled colleagues.

“It is just something that if that is at all possible would have to happen,” Moore told Reuters Health.

Skin-to-skin contact should start as soon as possible and at least 60 minutes, she said. The hour will give the babies time to recover from the birth experience, find the mothers nipple and latch on.

“It’s not something you can do in just 15 minutes,” she said.

Moore said that more research is needed on the skin-to-skin contact after a caesarean section births and among infants born near full term.

“I think skin-to-skin care, or contact a no-cost intervention that improves the outcome for mothers and babies,” said Jeannette Crenshaw, of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing in Lubbock.

Crenshaw, who is currently involved in a study of skin-to-skin contact after a caesarean section, said the current findings confirm the results of earlier, less rigorous studies that showed similar benefits.

“We need to adapt the processes, the normal routines and making changes in the system to the best practice available for mothers and babies,” said Crenshaw.

Moore said receiving skin-to-skin contact is often dependent on the doctors becomes comfortable with the practice.

“I would recommend that a woman, make sure she adds skin-to-skin to her birth plan,” she said. “I think it’s really a good thing for a woman to put together a birth plan before she goes to the hospital and show it to her doctors or midwife.”

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