Many mothers dream of that moment their baby is born. After the hard work of labor and birth, no matter what type of birth you have, snuggling your baby, skin-to-skin is the ultimate payoff. It’s almost as if nature immediately begins the important work of helping us forget the challenges of giving birth. Time stands still and nothing else matters.
My first baby was born by cesarean section and, after being held up for me to see, he was immediately whisked away due to claims that he was breathing too fast. We didn’t know enough at the time to advocate for him to be placed on my chest, as that likely could have helped regulate his breathing. My husband followed him to the nursery where they remained for 3 hours. I waited in recovery, anxious and physically shaking, from either nerves or anesthesia or both. The most remarkable thing happened when he was finally brought into my room and placed on my chest. I stopped shaking immediately. At a gut level, my body knew that he needed to be with me, and could not relax until we were reunited. I still grieve about missing out on that precious time with him. I am grateful my husband was with him, but wish it could have been me.
The hours immediately after your baby is born are precious. Thankfully, more and more hospitals and care providers are recognizing this and are making it a priority to support and encourage family bonding during this time. It’s becoming more common for babies to be placed immediately on their mothers’ chests after birth and to remain there for a while before anything else happens. And it’s not just that this is a nice idea. Research has shown that oxytocin levels increase when babies are placed skin-to-skin with their mothers. An increase in oxytocin has been shown to increase attachment behaviors in mothers as well. If the mother has a partner, the partner can also participate in this bonding. Here are some things you can do to maximize your chances of getting this important time to bond as a family:
1. Talk with your care provider about your wishes ahead of time. Make it clear that you want uninterrupted time with baby for at least 45 minutes or an hour after birth and until baby has breastfed (if you plan to breastfeed). Unless baby is in distress, there is no reason to remove him or her from you, whether you give birth vaginally or by cesarean.
2. Consider delaying any routine shots, vaccinations, and eye drops for at least that first hour. Also consider delaying having your baby bathed.
3. Consider delayed cord clamping. If the cord isn’t clamped immediately, your baby can’t go anywhere else!
4. Make sure that you, your partner, or your doula reminds the nurses and hospital staff of your wishes when it comes close to the time of birth.
If, for some reason, your baby needs to be taken away after birth, there are still things you can do to create this experience. First, you can have your partner do skin-to-skin with the baby if possible. If that’s not possible, just do all of this as soon as baby is returned to you. In fact, you can continue putting your baby skin-to-skin during his or her newborn days to encourage deeper bonding and comfort. It’s also a great practice to help establish a solid breastfeeding relationship.
And finally, don’t feel rushed to invite visitors to meet your baby. Those first hours can be an incredibly sacred time for you all to bond as a nuclear family and there will be plenty of time for everybody else.