If you have a caesarean birth, either planned or emergency, ask that your baby is placed on your chest after birth. Many hospitals do this as standard practice. If you need medical care yourself and can't have your baby on your chest, they can still have skin-to-skin contact at that time with your partner.5,11,12
Skin-to-skin time between mum and baby is even more important for a premature baby or baby in special care. This contact, also called ‘kangaroo mother care’, helps to keep your baby’s heart rate, breathing rate and temperature steady, much more so than in a humidicrib. Skin-to-skin contact will also help to release the breastfeeding hormones in your body. This in turn will help build up your milk supply.
Kangaroo mother care is most helpful for babies if started immediately after birth. This may be in a healthcare facility or at home. The baby should be held on the mum's chest for as many hours a day as possible, ideally between 8 to 24 hours. A partner or other family member can provide this care if mum is not able to.5
Even if you and your baby weren’t able to be together immediately, you can have skin-to-skin contact at any time and it will still trigger your baby’s inborn feeding responses. Holding your baby as you prepare to feed will help you to notice their feeding cues and make it easier for them to move to your breast and attach well.
1. Moore, E. R., Bergman, N., Anderson, G. C., & Medley, N. (2016). Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003519.pub4
2. Crenshaw, J. T. (2014). Healthy birth practice #6: Keep mother and baby together—it’s best for mother, baby, and breastfeeding. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 23(4), 211–217.
3. McFadden, A., Gavine, A., Renfrew, M. J., Wade, A., Buchanan, P., Taylor, J. L., Veitch, E., Rennie, A. M., Crowther, S. A., Neiman, S., & MacGillivray, S. (2017). Support for healthy breastfeeding mothers with healthy term babies. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
4. Wang, Y., Zhao, T., Zhang, Y., Li, S., & Cong, X. (2021). Positive effects of kangaroo mother care on longterm breastfeeding rates, growth, and neurodevelopment in preterm infants. Breastfeeding Medicine, 16(4), 282–291.
5. World Health Organization. (2022). WHO recommendations for care of the preterm or low birth weight infant. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240058262
6. Bergman, N. J., Linley, L. L., & Fawcus, S. R. (2004). Randomized controlled trial of skin-to-skin contact from birth versus conventional incubator for physiological stabilization in 1200- to 2199-gram newborns. Acta Paediatrica, 93(6), 779–785.
7. Stevens, J., Schmied, V., Burns, E., & Dahlen, H. (2014). Immediate or early skin-to-skin contact after a caesarean section: A review of the literature. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 10(4), 456–473.
8. Li, Z., Mannava, P., Murray, J., Sobel, H. L., Jatobatu, A., Calibo, A., Tsevelmaa, B., Saysanasongkham, B., Ogaoga, D., Waramin, E. J., Mason, E. M., Obara, H., Tran, H. T., Tuan, H. A., Kitong, J., Yaipupu, J. M., Cheang, K., Silvestre, M. A., Kounnavongsa, O., Putney, P., … Western Pacific Region Early Essential Newborn Care
Working Group (2020). Association between early essential newborn care and breastfeeding outcomes in eight countries in Asia and the Pacific: A cross-sectional observational study. BMJ Global Health, 5(8),
9. Kennell, J., & McGrath, S. (2005). Starting the process of mother–infant bonding. Acta Paediatrica, 94(6), 775–777.
10. Jurek, B., & Neumann, I. D. (2018). The oxytocin receptor: From intracellular signaling to behavior. Physiological Reviews, 98(3), 1805–1908.
11. Baley, J., & Committee on Fetus and Newborn. (2015). Skin-to-skin care for term and preterm infants in the neonatal ICU. Pediatrics, 136(3), 596–599.
12. Erlandsson, K., Dsilna, A., Fagerberg, I., & Christensson, K. (2007). Skin-to-skin care with the father after cesarean birth and its effect on newborn crying and prefeeding behavior. Birth, 34(2), 105–114.
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