Skin to Skin
A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience
When Monique Salvas delivered her second baby, Danny, at Milford Regional this past October, she couldn’t believe how quickly her new son was given to her. In what seemed like seconds, she remembers her baby being placed upon a warm blanket on her stomach and dried off. A nurse dressed Danny in a hat and diaper and then placed the baby against his mom, chest to chest with a warm blanket covering them both. Unlike the birth of her daughter, Maia, two years ago, medications, assessments, bathing, and height and weight were on hold for at least an hour.
“With my first child, I didn’t even know what she looked like for a little while,” recalls Monique. “With Danny, he was on top of me so fast; it was amazing! I wasn’t pregnant anymore; I wasn’t in labor anymore; and there was the baby. I was able to inspect him and look at all his little facial features. I think that’s what moms want when they have their baby.”
Monique was one of the first maternity patients to participate in the Skin to Skin program at Milford Regional, which was piloted at the hospital last fall and, as of February, has been fully implemented for healthy, uncomplicated term newborns. This is just the latest innovation in childbirth offered by the Maternity Center. Milford Regional was the first hospital in Massachusetts to offer labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum rooms. Later, the hospital added whirlpool labor tubs and introduced couplet care which creates an environment where mom and baby stay together more closely and the same nurse cares for both of them. “It’s continuity of care,” explains Linda Getchell, RN, CKC, maternity clinical education coordinator. “You know what the mother’s issues are and what the baby has been doing. It also gives the mother a chance to learn all about the baby's unique characteristics.”
As the latest addition to that leading edge of care, the Maternity Center staff has been working hard to incorporate the Skin to Skin program. Linda and Pamela Rosado, RN, CKC, took an intensive certification course last spring and brought the national program to the hospital. Backed by more than 400 studies, Skin to Skin is now recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Heart Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, notes Linda. “It’s like the first immunization – they get immunity just from being on the mother,” she says. “They have deeper sleep, which basically gives their brains a chance to grow. They lose less weight. If the baby is cold, the mother’s body heat warms the baby and vice versa. It’s getting back to nature.”
During the Skin to Skin time, Linda says the baby will listen to the mother’s heartbeat, feel her skin and instinctively look for the breast. After the first feeding, the baby will usually drift into a deep sleep. Because these first moments of the baby’s life are so special, Milford Regional will discourage visitors in the delivery room during the first two hours after birth. “The goal is not to disturb them for at least an hour with any medications or procedures,” Linda explains. “It’s to make sure mom and the baby have that privacy and bond. It’s as though we’re giving them permission to be alone together. That first hour or two after birth is so important for the baby and we’re trying to limit interruption. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
Linda emphasizes that fathers are also encouraged to hold their child Skin to Skin in the hospital, once the baby and the mother have bonded. She recommends that parents and other family members use the Skin to Skin method for at least an hour or two per day after discharge.
Other benefits for newborns include a happier, calmer temperament, better blood sugars, a heart rate that stablilizes more quickly and faster weight gain. Linda stresses that all mothers should do the technique no matter how they choose to feed their infants; however, Skin to Skin does have a positive effect on breastfeeding.
“It helps the mother’s milk come in sooner through the release of the hormone oxytocin,” said Laura Fantini, RNC, IBCLC, certified lactation consultant. “It takes longer if the mother is separated from her baby.”
As an added bonus, shortly after birth, the baby is drawn to the nipple because it smells like amniotic fluid, Laura explains. “It gives them a direction to head,” she said. “If you’re all wrapped up, the baby doesn’t necessarily smell that. It’s one less barrier to overcome. Breastfeeding can be very challenging and sometimes, if they have that initial contact and the baby initiates the breastfeeding, the mom might be more encouraged to stick with it even if it is harder. Also, if the family has time to really focus on the baby and enjoy the Skin to Skin, they are more likely to watch the baby and learn the baby’s cues to nurse.”
As the maternity nurses advised, Monique continued Skin to Skin sessions once she was discharged. “I am thankful to Milford Regional for giving me and Danny a wonderful introduction to each other,” she says.
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