Why Holding Your Baby May Save Her Life

Christie Haskell

One of the first things parents look for when their newborn emerges into the world is a baby that responds to the universe. On TV, this used to be encouraged with a slap to the baby's butt (thank GOD we don't do that anymore!), but there's a much nicer way to do it: cuddle your baby. Research in Sweden shows babies respond sooner and ask for Mommy vocally quicker if they're placed on bare skin immediately after birth.

For you c-section mommies, good news: Cuddling on Dad's bare chest immediately showed similar results, though there's no replacement for Mommy. Oddly though, babies did seem to relax sooner on Daddy -- probably because they knew they weren't getting to eat!

Skin-on-skin contact is referred to as Kangaroo Care, and has been in the news a lot lately, even if you didn't know its name. This practice even brought a baby back to life.

Kate Ogg gave birth to twins at 27 weeks. The baby girl was okay, but the boy was pronounced dead. As the mom cuddled her infant's body, she noticed movement, which was dismissed by the doctor as reflexes. The baby moved more and more and opened his eyes. When Ogg put breast milk on her finger, he even opened his little mouth and accepted it. Despite the doctor's insistence that the baby was dead, he obviously wasn't, and is a happy, healthy baby today, and skin-on-skin contact -- Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) -- is the reason.

An article from BabyGooRoo states:

The high-touch, low-tech skin-to-skin contact of KMC helps stabilize a newborn’s body temperature, heart and breathing rates, and blood sugar levels as well or better than high-tech interventions, such as radiant heat warmers. Plus, only KMC lowers the stress hormone, cortisol, and causes the release of oxytocin and beta-endorphins, hormones which have a calming effect in both mothers and babies.

Who needs warmers and all of that equipment in normal situations? Mom is nature's perfect warmer, and baby learns smooth respiration and heart rate from lying on mom's chest! Allowed to move freely, baby even can latch on and begin breastfeeding on its own.

One persistent and loving dad who shared his story on BabyGooRoo told about how his wife went in for a planned c-section, and he insisted he be allowed to hold the baby to his chest immediately after the baby's entrance in the world.

He was initially told no, on claims of "concern about sterility in the OR" (what a joke) that apparently male toplessness compromised. Fortunately, he didn't give up that easily, and made a deal that he'd wear the hospital gown they required of him -- but backwards, so it could open to his chest. This was an acceptable solution, and after his daughter's birth, he cuddled for 30 minutes with her on his bare chest, the hospital robe closed around both of them, until his wife was able to put the baby girl to her own chest.

Sometimes hospitals aren't a huge fan, but skin-on-skin contact is your right as a mom or even for dad. Your baby was inside you for nine months, and when they come out, they should go directly from your womb to your embrace, or to your husband's. From personal experience, I can support this!

One hospital reported that letting mothers cuddle their newborns actually made aftercare of the mother easier, as she was so focused on her baby it distracted her from the things that immediately followed, such as any pain during delivery of the placenta or stitches.

Did you practice Kangaroo Care? Did your husband?


Image via Lorel Hartley of Nurturing Notions

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