Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice: Keep Mother and Baby Together – It’s Best for Mother, Baby, and Breastfeeding


Adapted from Giving Birth with Confidence, 3rd Edition

Research supports the traditional practice of keeping parents and newborns together. Evidence shows that this is a key element of nature’s plan. People experiencing natural birth have high levels of catecholamines, oxytocin, and endorphins. Catecholamines ensure that parent and baby are alert and ready to get to know each other. Oxytocin helps raise a birthing parent’s body/chest/breast temperature and helps them feel calm and responsive. As they hold baby skin to skin, baby’s hand and head movements stimulate more oxytocin and endorphin release. The oxytocin helps the uterus stay contracted, which prevents excessive bleeding and also increases milk production. The endorphins create feelings of calm and relaxation, and through body/breast milk, baby stays calm and relaxed, too. Physiologically, parents and babies are meant to be together. 

Experts recommend that right after birth a healthy newborn should be placed skin to skin on the birthing parent’s abdomen or chest and should be dried and covered with warm blankets. The parent’s temperature adjusts naturally to keep baby warm. Newborns (including premature babies) held skin to skin by their parent cry less and stay warmer than newborns placed in warming cribs. Recent research suggests that skin-to-skin contact, as well as vaginal birth and body/breastfeeding, help “seed” the baby’s microbiome with long-term positive effects for baby. “Seeding” means that the exposure to the parent’s normal bacteria during a vaginal birth and then skin-to-skin contact becomes the trigger for the development of the baby’s own immune system, and this ultimately lowers the risk of the baby getting sick. 

Other benefits of skin-to-skin contact for newborns are easier, more regular breathing; higher more stable blood sugar levels; and a natural progression to body/breastfeeding. Most babies kept skin to skin with their parent after birth instinctively crawl to the chest/breast, latch on, and start nursing all by themselves. Even brief separation can interfere with their ability to do this. It’s another good reason to delay baby’s first bath. In fact, any care that needs to be done immediately after birth can be done with your baby skin to skin on your chest, with a light warmed blanket over you both. Weighing, measuring, and bathing can be delayed for several hours. 

Learn more information about the benefits of keeping parent and baby together after birth:

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