If you are a new parent, or will be one soon, odds are you’ve heard about all of the benefits of skin-to-skin time. You know, that “Golden Hour” after your beautiful little angel is born when they go on your chest, uninterrupted, for an hour, or until they breastfeed for the first time? It will be so magical, that time of peace and quiet, with you and your partner gazing lovingly at the baby…
But what if your baby comes out, well, gross? Yes, I know, all newborns are beautiful (except my own; the second one came out looking like a frog), but sometimes, they are a little gross. Bloody from mom, covered in cream cheese (it’s really Mother Nature’s way of protecting their skin from becoming water logged on the inside and offers some immune protection after birth), wrinkled, swollen, wet, screaming — is it even a human? Even though all of these things are normal, it doesn’t mean they look nice. And it doesn’t mean that you’ll immediately want to hold this little alien on your naked chest.
But, what if you don’t do it? Will your partner think you’re not going to be a good mom? Will the nurses think you aren’t going to be a good mom? Does this make you a bad mom? The answer, of course, is no. Choosing not to put your slimy newborn on your naked chest doesn’t make you a bad mom. When you haven’t met this slimy newborn, it is very hard to imagine that you will want to do many things for him. After all, right now, slimy newborn is still a stranger.
The thing is, being a mom means that you will do all kinds of gross things that you cannot even imagine. And you do them not because you want to (no one really wants to wipe poop off another human), but because it is the best thing for your baby. So, as you think about how you want your birth to go, remember all of the good things skin-to-skin contact provides for your baby: He will be happy to be there and will therefore cry less, your body temperature will rise to keep him warm, and you will help to stabilize his heart rate and breathing. These things mean he will burn less energy and not have to work as hard to transition to life outside of his happy home. He will breastfeed better. And you will begin to bond. Big time. And suddenly, he is not a stranger any more, but he is your beautiful little slimy alien.
No, skin-to-skin may not be perfectly pretty in the beginning, but it certainly is worth it.
P.S. If you have a c-section, don’t worry! Skin-to-skin time can start as soon as surgery is over, as long as everybody is doing ok. Just ask the nurses to put the baby on your chest before they hook you up to the monitors in the Post Op area. Some hospitals in our area are even trying out putting baby skin-to-skin while mom is still in surgery. It never hurts to ask if it can be done at your own delivery.
Angie Bauman has been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Parent Instructor for ProMedica for the past 6 years. She enjoys teaching parents-to-be about labor and birth, and building confidence in a new mom’s ability to parent and feed her baby. She has also been a Labor and Delivery nurse at ProMedica Toledo Hospital for 13 years. Angie is Mom to 10 year old Lukas, 6 year old Noah and 3 year old Adele, who continually share their own wisdom on how parenting should be done. Angie’s blog, Let’s Spill the Milk! publishes on HealthConnect each month.