Take a look at this picture of me and my first baby ...
Me with the puffy face
Wrapped up little new baby ...
It looks like so many "new mommy" pictures that you see, right?
And here's what's wrong with this image - I can't stop thinking, "Why the hell was he always in a blanket?" Let me elaborate ... have you heard of skin-to-skin? Skin-to-skin is the act of holding your baby - NAKED (yes - diaper okay) - to your skin (usually on your bare chest) NOT WRAPPED.
For starters, your skin - while touching baby's skin - helps regulate the body temperature of your newborn. It also enhances your baby's immune system as your skin passes antibodies to your baby (those antibodies don't come from just breastmilk - they come from skin - that's why skin-to-skin is so important for EVERY Mom)
The other list of important and amazing benefits?
1. It stimulates digestion and weight gain in your babies
2. It synchronizes your baby's heart rate and breathing - helping them learn how to self-regulate
3. It reduces your babies stress and pain
(In 2000, they did a small study and found that "full-term babies who were held close by their mothers during a heel lance or stick — a simple, minimally-invasive procedure used to gather blood samples — cried and grimaced less than babies who were swaddled in a crib during the procedure, and their heart rates were also more relaxed.")
4. It reduces Mama's risk of post partum depression
(I think this issue alone is the reason why hospitals should TEACH, SUPPORT and ENFORCE skin-to-skin)
5. It encourages and supports a more successful start to breastfeeding (though on another sad and interesting note, the "statistically significant and better overall performance on all measures of breastfeeding" kind of becomes moot by "day 28 to one month postbirth" because of "barriers to long-term breastfeeding that exist in the United States, especially the customary absence of or very brief paid maternity leave" ... like you started off great, you had a successful run and are ahead of the curve and would continue to be if only you had support in this other area too which instead affects the "effectiveness" of your earlier efforts. Man, I digressed ...)
Here's the thing about skin-to-skin ... even if you know what is it, YOU HAVE TO DO IT RIGHT. All the above benefits (and several others which I didn't even mention) - only occur when you have no less than 60 minutes of uninterrupted skin-to-skin and this does NOT include feeding baby.
By the time my second baby was born, I was all about skin-to-skin. I can't even tell you why because I didn't know the amazing benefits of it at the time. All I knew was that I always felt amazing when I held my babies in that way and when she was born, I wanted to embrace that sensation and hold onto it for as long as I could (I can still feel my heart racing as I type this).
But here's the problem - even though I knew I wanted to hold her in that way, most of my memories from being in the hospital are of the insane amount of times I unswaddled her. My husband said, "I think they're going to come in and yell at you." He meant it seriously. And without "yelling" at me, they definitely - passive aggressively - tried not to let me have my skin-to-skin. They would come in to take my baby's temperature and I would say, "I'll just take her back" and they would tell me, "Oh we got her. Let us just wrap her up first." - and that's what they did. I didn't have the energy to argue so they'd swaddle her and hand her to me and I'd unwrap her and hold her to my chest time and time again. Even very recently, a new Mom shared with me that while she was in the hospital, at one point, a young nurse panicked and informed her that her "newborn's temperature dropped!" The Mama freaked out a little (naturally) until an older, experienced, nurse came in and simply unwrapped the baby to place him on Mama's chest. (It made me wonder, "Do they not teach this stuff in school?" and my guess is no.)
Here's the final important note on skin-to-skin ... the Academy of Pediatrics recommends you do skin-to-skin with your baby as much as possible for 12 weeks - and more if you want to! For me, that means at least one hour, every day, of skin-to-skin bonding with your baby. Is this doable? I have no idea. Did I do it with my own kids? No. I know for a fact I did not manage this with my first because I didn't even know skin-to-skin was a thing, let alone such an important thing (I was told the most important thing was baby laying on Mama's chest within the first hour after birth and made that my priority) and while I did a heck of a lot of this with my second baby, I still didn't realize how important it was so when life got busy after 2/3/4 weeks, my skin-to-skin went to the wayside.
But here's why I wrote about this today ...
because I want you to know how important skin-to-skin is ...
I want you to NOT BE AFRAID ... to unswaddle your baby and tell your caregivers that skin-to-skin is important to you.
Because I want you to feel supported to make this choice so that you can seize the opportunity for this amazing experience while you can have it. When I say skin-to-skin is an "amazing experience" - I'm not trying to be dramatic; I wasn't kidding above when I mentioned how my heart was racing. I still feel giddy and get goosebumps when I reflect back on my skin-to-skin memories. The benefits of that skin-to-skin that I made happen? I am still reaping the benefits in my body today ... more than 2 years after my last birth!
Because if I had known how important this was, I would have made it my priority. I would have given myself the permission to set aside the time to do this. I would have said no to visitors - and took my hour. I would have asked others to do more cooking - and take an hour. I would have made this my "to-do" when my toddler took his afternoon nap.
Mamas - I know how hard it is to set aside time for yourself and your family in our fast paced go-go-go world. We are people pleasers. We are helpers. We do. We take care. We are Mom. It's in that DNA that baby sheds inside us as they grow. But your physical and mental health, and the same of your baby, are too important not to take care to do this one, easy thing right from the start. And one more important note? Daddy can do it too!
Sending this out to the internet with all the very best wishes for healthy and speedy deliveries for any Mamas who are pregnant and lots of skin-to-skin time for those Mamas who are still in those early days and beyond,
Mama's MilkBox is a nursing apparel subscription for breastfeeding Moms. Don't have time to scour the internet looking for breastfeeding brands? Don't know what styles/shapes will flatter your new-figure best? Let our Breastfeeding Stylists take care of it all for you!
My name is Elena aka The Breastfeeding Stylist and the creator of Mama's MilkBox and Carmen.
We have one mission here at Mama's MilkBox: help Moms find their "old" fabulous selves in their new normal.