Skin to skin. Not just for the "Golden Hour".
Updated: Jun 26, 2023
If you're reading this while pregnant you may have already heard of the idea of a golden hour right after your baby is born when research has shown there are benefits to you and your baby to be allowed peace and quiet together skin-to-skin to have your first feed. You may have put it in your birth plan that this is important to you and you would like to preserve this time whatever else happens during your labour and birth. You've done what is in your control but you may also want to be aware things outside of your control may happen. For genuine medical emergencies, your care providers may not be able to facilitate this time immediately after your birth. Sometimes they may just be busy or not value that as much as they should and may interrupt this time. You may need to include a plan to be firm and self-advocate if you feel this time is being interrupted without good reason. You may also want to include a plan to spend as much as possible of the time you're in the hospital (assuming you've had a hospital birth) and at home in the first few hours, days and weeks skin-to-skin with your baby.
If you're already holding your baby and looking back on what happened when your baby was born and skin-to-skin didn’t happen as you hoped for whatever reason don’t despair it’s not too late. Equally, if you're looking back thinking how lovely that skin-to-skin time was now is a great time to get back skin-to-skin with your baby.
If you had a birth that didn’t go to plan or if you and baby are struggling to get breast/chestfeeding going well or if you’re finding it difficult to feel that overwhelming bonding and falling in love that you’ve been led to expect will happen as soon as baby arrives skin-to-skin can help. Skin-to-skin can happen as much as you like, any time you’re in the house you can snuggle skin-to-skin under a blanket or pop baby skin-to-skin in a stretchy sling. Skin-to-skin raises oxytocin (the feel-good loving hormone) levels so don’t worry you can not overdo it. Babies and parents (and siblings, grandmas etc) benefit in many ways by spending as much time as possible skin-to-skin.
One way of being skin-to-skin that many people find really positive is to have a bath with your baby. Sometimes you might see this referred to as re-birthing but it’s nothing spiritual or just for hippies just an opportunity for mum and baby to get the skin-to-skin and cuddles they might have missed out on at birth or just to get some more.
Here’s a quick how-to guide if you think you might benefit from this.
Have someone help you, run a nice deep bath, get in and relax.
Have your helper pass you your baby.
Hold your baby between your legs (in the warm water) as you sit in the bath make eye contact and talk to your baby about how long you’ve been waiting to meet them, how important they are, how beautiful they are and how much you’re going to love them.
Then bring your baby up onto your tummy/chest so you are tummy to tummy just as you would have been had birth gone to your original plan. Relax like that as long as you and your baby are happy.
Have your helper put a towel over your baby to keep them warm if necessary and be prepared to hold your hand or stroke your arm if the tears start to fall. If the tears fall do not be surprised, let them come and let the emotions out. Make sure you’ve picked a helper who is prepared to be with you through all the feelings and offer loving sympathy not try to cheer you up or fix the problem. The talk and the helping may come later but this is the time for just feeling and letting the feelings out.
It’s quite likely that in this position tummy down, head on your chest baby will start to root. As long as your baby isn’t getting upset try to leave them to it to find the nipple and latch on themselves.
Your helper can take your baby and then offer support if needed for you to climb out of the bath when you’re ready.
If you don't have someone already in your life who would be good at supporting you to do this one option is to contact a doula. This process is something a doula will be more than happy to be your support person or helper through. Check out https://hampshiredoulas.uk/what-is-a-doula/ if you would like to know more about doulas and what they do.