When preparing for the birth of a new baby, many mothers-to-be focus very intensely on what it will be like to labour and give birth. Childbirth preparation classes teach pregnant women all about how an epidural is administered, specific breathing techniques, labour and pushing positions, but there’s often a big hazy unknown when it comes to the moments immediately after the baby is born, and beyond. However, it is just as important to plan and prepare to keep baby with mom after birth as it is to have a plan for labouring and delivery.
Why should you keep your baby with you after birth?
– skin-to-skin contact helps regulate baby’s temperature
– hormones from delivery “prime” mom and baby to bond with each other, beginning the foundation of emotional attachment
– these same hormones encourage the delivery of the placenta and contraction of the uterus, reducing the risk of hemorrhage
– baby’s presence encourages early breastfeeding
Unless there is a life and death emergency, there is no need for medical staff to take a baby away from mom after the birth. A newborn does not need to be immediately weighed, measured, bathed, dressed, immunized or have eye drops administered, at least not within the first hour or so. All these things can wait while mom and baby recover from the birth and get to know each other.
Bonding is important
When I was pregnant with my first child I discovered that I wanted a natural birth and I learned that having my baby at home gave me the best chance at having a natural birth. I read about the importance of bonding time and the natural rush of oxytocin, and I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding straight away. Even with all that knowledge under my belt, I was still surprised when I looked up from where I was lying on the bed, resting after giving birth to my new baby to discover that my husband, midwife and her assistant were all in the kitchen having tea together. I had been lying there, busy gazing at and falling in love with my new baby and I hadn’t even noticed them leave. I don’t even know how long they were gone for. I remember a brief moment of, “I wonder what they’re talking about?” and “I wonder if they’ve forgotten about me?” but I was very thankful for the quiet, peaceful space they gave me to enjoy simply being with my new baby.
Reforming birth practices in countries where birth has become a highly medicalized event means recognizing birth as a multi-dimensional, life changing event for all members of the family. When birth is recognized and honoured as an emotional, spiritual, transformational AND biological process, then the importance of keeping a new baby and mother together will become more apparent. It may be easier, faster or more efficient for medical staff to perform their routine examinations immediately after birth, but a new baby’s bonding window cares naught for the nursing staff’s schedule. Having a birth plan can help make it clear to your doctor and nurses that it is important that baby stays with mom after birth, and hiring a doula can help too. For women with low-risk pregnancies, consider hiring a midwife and giving birth at home.
For more information on healthy birth and to read the rest of the contributions to the Healthy Birth Blog Carnival, check out Science & Sensibility, A Research Blog About Healthy Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond from Lamaze International.