Friday, June 17, 2011

Support for Mama and Baby Immediately Following Birth

After a baby is born is such an important time. We always hear about bonding between the mother and baby, but what does that really mean, and what does it mean to support it? Well, let’s look at bonding for a minute. Mommy and baby have been together for 40 weeks now (give or take). Mommy knows what baby feels like inside…what his kicks feel like, how he likes to roll around, how often he gets the hiccups, and even sometimes his sleeping patterns or what songs will help him settle down when she sings to him. Baby knows what mommy feels like from the inside…she is warm, is his protector, rocks him gently asleep as she is walking or active, and even startles him with her growling tummy or other loud noises. He knows her voice and is comforted by it. She has loved him from the moment she found out she was carrying him.

After he is born is the one and only chance they have to meet each other for the first time and connect in the way a mommy and baby need to. He needs to smell her and hear her voice. She needs to look into his eyes and talk to him. Her body warmth will warm and comfort him after he has made the journey into the big, cold world. No more free nourishment, constant protection, or tumbling freely in a pool of warm fluid. From now on baby has to work for everything, and it is so important for him to know where he can go and whom he can trust to meet his needs.

It is care providers’ and birth teams’ responsibility to make sure baby and mama get what they need to build that ever-important bond. Immediately after his emergence into the world, the baby should be put on his mommy’s chest – no rough handling or whisking away to the warming table across the room. Any assessments that need to be done should be done from her chest. Mama’s birth team should quietly allow mommy, daddy, and baby to get to know one another for as long as they need. Skin-to-skin has been proven to provide the best warmth for baby. Allow mommy especially, and later even daddy the ability to provide that warmth. Allow mama to initiate breastfeeding as soon as she and baby wants, and do not insist upon nipple shields or sugar water if baby doesn’t latch on right away. Gently help mama and baby, and don’t push it.

Above all, birth teams and care providers must respect the wishes of the mother and give her the respect she deserves whether or not all of these things can and do happen. If any of these things cannot happen for any given reason, they absolutely must talk to her. She deserves and has the right to know what is going on with her and her baby at all times.

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