Teaching New Parents about Skin-to-Skin Contact

Expectant parents may be unprepared for their first moments with their new baby, or they don't give it much thought in advance. Educators and healthcare providers play an important role in informing parents about what to expect at birth and supporting them at this pivotal moment.

Education is often needed to address lack of knowledge, misinformation and misconceptions about newborn care topics, and skin-to-skin contact is no exception. Use your listening skills as an educator to identify your client's current understanding of skin-to-skin contact. Then, help them understand the benefits and the do's and don'ts of this practice. Education helps calm fears and encourages this beneficial practice in new families. 

Skin-to-skin time for childhood development

Extensive research has proven significant short- and long-term benefits to skin-to-skin contact, both immediately after birth and as a regular part of infant care. Overwhelmingly, infant and early childhood development experts agree that physical contact bolsters the health of both the mother and the child. Skin-to-skin contact:

  • Makes it easier for babies to latch at the breast.
  • Improves milk production.
  • Helps babies regulate their body temperature.
  • Supports healthy blood glucose levels in babies after birth.
  • Reduces stress for both mother and child after birth.
  • Improves pain perceived after birth for both mother and child.

Not just for breastfeeding mothers

One of the most commonly cited benefits of this practice is how skin-to-skin helps babies latch successfully during early attempts to breastfeed. However, some expectant mothers do not plan to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. It is recommended that “regardless of feeding preference,” parents should be educated during pregnancy about the numerous additional psychological and physical benefits of skin-to-skin contact.

Normalize the process

Fortunately, most health care providers are now encouraging parents to initiate skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after birth. Since birth can be overwhelming, explaining this to parents to prepare them is helpful. If a new mother is unprepared, holding a newborn covered in bodily fluids against her skin may be startling. Educating parents on what to expect can help normalize certain aspects of childbirth, like seeing bodily fluids such as blood, vernix, and amniotic fluid, and allow them to avoid a negative reaction to starting skin-to-skin contact right away.

Be sensitive 

As you educate families, be mindful of special circumstances that may impact how parents feel about skin-to-skin contact. The emotional impact and shock of initial skin-to-skin contact with the newborn can be unwelcome for some parents, especially if they feel pressured to alter their feeding plans or bond with a newborn in cases involving adoption or surrogacy. 

Tailor the information you share based on clients' needs and circumstances. Skin-to-skin contact can be provided by non-birthing parents, including fathers and adoptive parents. Providing education and resources that explain this information accurately and consistently helps you communicate more effectively with new parents.

Cover the “do’s” and “don’ts” of skin-to-skin

Once your clients understand the benefits of skin-to-skin, you can guide them through the details of the practice. Parents who understand why something is important are going to be more likely to pay attention when you explain how.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to review with parents on skin-to-skin contact:

  • Do: Place baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth unless a medical need prevents it.
  • Do: Cover the parent and child together with a blanket to keep the baby warm.
  • Do: Allow the baby plenty of time to settle in on the mother’s chest after birth and to find their way to the breast for their first feeding.
  • Do: Promote skin-to-skin contact to encourage attachment bonds with non-birthing parents, family members, and other regular caregivers whenever feasible.
  • Don’t: Leave any clothing or blankets that block skin-to-skin contact between parent and child.
  • Don’t: Rush skin-to-skin contact or allow non-urgent interruptions of the baby during exploration or latching. An hour minimum is recommended. Longer is even better. 

Going over these guidelines with parents can help them prepare for and remember to prioritize skin-to-skin both immediately after birth and throughout their child’s infancy and early childhood. 

Verbal explanations help convince parents of the importance of this practice, but you can improve your education services by providing reinforcements through handouts, visual aids, and other teaching material. Plumtree Baby helps healthcare providers and educators like you connect parents with accurate, accessible information customized for your business and clientele.

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