The Importance of Skin-to-Skin Contact for Newborns

23 Sep

The following is a news release from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.

Texas Health Dallas Nurse Researchers Team with Swedish Experts to Promote Bonding Between Moms and Newborns
Researchers say skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth improves breastfeeding

DALLAS, TEXAS, Sept. 17, 2010— Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is the first medical center in the United States to use a unique international method to study mother-and-baby bonding.

The PRECESS method (practice, reflection, education and training, combined with ethnography for sustainable success) is being used by nurse researchers at Texas Health Dallas to learn more about the bonding process between the mother and baby immediately after birth. The method, which uses videotapes of newborns with their mothers, also emphasizes the safety and effectiveness of babies cuddling with mom in the first moments after birth.

The method, which is aimed at increasing breastfeeding rates and other benefits, eliminates delays between birth and giving the baby to the mother for skin-to-skin contact. In the study, healthy babies have immediate skin-to-skin time with their mothers — without interruption for routine care, like weighing or measuring, for at least one hour.

“The moments immediately after birth are a special time for the mother and her baby,” said lead investigator Jeannette Crenshaw, MSN, RN, LCCE, IBCLC, NEA-BC, a family educator at Texas Health Dallas and graduate faculty at University of Texas at Arlington. “Not only is it an emotionally and psychologically important time for the two to bond, but we also know that babies have healthier outcomes when they have that skin-to-skin contact right after birth.”

When mothers have skin-to-skin contact with their babies, they release oxytocin, a brain chemical that regulates various behaviors and emotional states. Sometimes called the “love hormone,” oxytocin helps mothers and babies feel more peaceful after birth, researchers say. The hormone, which is most abundant in the moments immediately after delivery, also helps with breastfeeding.

“Newborns who are given skin-to-skin contact for at least an hour immediately after birth also experience numerous other benefits,” said Kristin Svensson, a Swedish nurse researcher from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm Sweden. “They cry less, have more stable heart beats and body temperatures, and are less anxious.”

Continuous skin-to-skin contact in the first hour has also been related to better blood sugar levels in babies. She added that newborn go through the nine observable stages when they’re held skin to skin by their mothers: birth cry; relaxation; awakening; activity; rest; crawling; familiarization; suckling and sleep.

During the study, mothers and babies have been recorded with a video camera during the first hour after birth. Segments of the recordings will be reviewed with the nurses and doctors throughout the labor and delivery unit.

The researchers are tracking the rate of exclusive breast milk feeding at hospital discharge among healthy mothers who have uninterrupted skin-to-skin care with their babies beginning immediately after a vaginal or cesarean birth. They’ll compare the rates of exclusive breast milk feeding before and after using the PRECESS method.

“We know this method is safe and effective, even for mothers who have cesarean births,” said Kajsa Brimdyr, PhD, CLC, who was part of the international research team. Dr. Brimdyr is director of the Healthy Children Project, a Cape Cod (MA)-based, non-profit organization.

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