We all have heard the term, “skin-to-skin” and will often first hear this when we are pregnant. “Don’t forget to do skin-to-skin after your baby is born!” Of course tell this to someone in the HOT Queensland, Australian weather (where I live) and they might want to cry. Breastfeeding a baby in 40 (104) degree weather is awful! Air conditioning anyone?
The research surrounding babies and skin-to-skin is overwhelming! The risks to NOT doing skin to skin include: unstable temperatures in the baby (Walters et all., 2007; Fransson, Karlsson, & Nilsson, 2005; Bergman, Linley, & Fawcus, 2004), more maternal stress and less satisfaction with breastfeeding (Anderson, 2004), less desire by the mother to hold her infant (Anderson 2004), less ability of the baby to smell the natural scent of mother’s milk (Marlier & Schaal, 2005) and greater pain for baby with more crying during painful procedures (Johnston, 2003).
We are continually bombarded by advertisements that make us think we “NEED” all sorts of things to help us get through our breastfeeding journey. Creams, pumps, herbs, teas, supplements, cookies, nipple shields, nipple warmers, nipple pads…the list goes on and on. And yes, of course some of these things may be very helpful for some mothers…
Yet, I’d like to suggest something that is FREE…EASY…RELAXING…and available to every new mother out there…and it’s simply just sitting and BEING with your baby, and as they grow, just BEING with your child. Whether that’s being with them skin-to-skin as babies or just hanging out with them as they get older.
Just “being” with your newborn…
Can prevent your baby preferring the bottle. How? If you are currently mixed feeding (breastfeeding and bottle feeding formula or your expressed breastmilk) it can be a worry that your baby will start to prefer the bottle instead of the breast. Unfortunately in the past 12 years of working with breastfeeding women, I have seen many women describe the moment they started to notice their baby prefer the bottle and refuse the breast. By doing skin-to-skin and offering the breast frequently throughout the day and the night, your baby is much less likely to refuse the breast. Breastfeeding continues to happen because of the frequent, unrestricted access to the breast. A baby who “hangs out” with the boob 24/7 is a baby who is much more likely to keep breastfeeding! It’s not about *trying* to get your baby onto the breast to keep them interested. It’s just about them being there with your breasts, skin-to-skin in a relaxed environment as frequently as possible. Have other children (I have 3 so I understand the chaotic, crazy, loud, messy household!) I highly recommend investing in a baby carrier. This is a great way to have skin-to-skin without having to sit down. I could run around after my 3 year old like a crazy, psychotic person while holding my peaceful, sleeping baby!
Can prevent your baby refusing to latch. How? When someone tells me they are having trouble latching their baby on I always suggest something first: “Get skin-to-skin with your baby and see if they will self-attach”. When health infants are placed on their mother’s abdomen and chest shorty after birth, “they are alert, and they can crawl, stimulated by the mother’s touch, across her abdomen reaching her breast. Then baby smells, mouths, and licks the mother’s nipple and finally attaches to the breasts and feeds” (WABA, 2007). CLICK HERE TO VIEW MY VIDEO on self-attachment.
Can help prevent your baby crying. How? We know that newborns who are NOT held skin-to-skin following birth are at a great risk of “greater ‘stress of being born’ as demonstrated by the higher vasoconstriction in the periphery with more crying” (Riordan, Wambach 2010). Simply put…the more you hold your baby skin-to-skin the less they will cry! Babies need frequent cuddles and frequent breastfeeds. It calms them, brings them comfort and security and allows them to transition into the world outside of mum as gently as possible. You cannot spoil your baby. In the early weeks and months, you will find that the simple act of just “being” with your baby skin-to-skin can prevent many episodes of crying, both during the day and at night.
Can help prevent low supply. How? The more your baby is hanging out with you (and your breasts) skin-to-skin, the more likely they are to breastfeed. Breasts work on a supply and demand system. The more milk is removed, the more milk will be made. For some women, low supply will be caused by the fact that their baby is not getting unrestricted access to the breast. The mother might be limiting feeds, trying to feed on a schedule, sleep training or trying not to breastfeed their baby to sleep. All of these things can lead to less skin-to-skin, less feeding and therefore LESS MILK! *meme about supply and demand* *meme about canceling plans*
Just “being” with your child…
Can help in the transition of starting daycare and working outside the home. How? During these times of transition away from our child while we ourselves are usually crying (you know, those moments where you trying to hold it in and the second someone starts talking to you, you burst into tears?!) it is so important to just take the time to BE with your child. Sit with them on the couch in the morning right after they wake. Read a book, play a game…just have some quiet time. I always tell people during a consult, “Pretend you’re back in school! Have your lunch ready the night before, your outfit picked out and ingredients to throw into the slow cooker.” This way you can make sure you when you wake up all you have to really focus on is eating something AFTER you have spent some time with your little one. Do the same when you return home together.
Can help during the weaning process. How? When my first born weaned I remember how we went from those early morning breastfeeds to early morning cuddles on the couch. It’s so easy to get busy after we have weaned! But what we often don’t realize is that all the time that we spent just BEING with our child breastfeeding, was also time spent cuddling our child. They still need this quiet time. Make sure to spend these little moments with them as you are trying to wean or once you have weaned. Instead of the breastfeeds on the couch, take the time to hang out with them quietly. Pay attention to them! It can make the weaning process go much more smoothly.
Can help open the lines of communication. How? Kids tend to start talking when we are just hanging out with them. Off of our phones, not making dinner, just BEING with them. This often happen at night when we are putting them to bed. Another time this can happen is when we’re in the car.
Let’s start to take the time to focus on this simple act. It’s free and it works!