What is Skin to Skin?

You may have heard the term "Skin to Skin" many times during your preparation for Birth. Your Doula may have asked if you if its a birth preference for your Birth Plan, your childbirth educator likely brought it up in class, your provider may have offered it to you as an option for immediately Postpartum, or you may have heard friends and other parents share their experiences about it. But what is it??? Don't we all have skin?! What is this nonsense and why is everyone asking me about it?!


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Skin to Skin refers to the experience of placing your naked baby on your naked skin, (skin-to-skin, if you will) belly to belly. Skin to Skin most notably takes places immediately after birth, or in some cases, soon after birth when baby and parent are both reunited. Parent and baby can be covered with a blanket or towel however the parent's body temperature will regulate the baby's body temperature. In fact, even more specifically, the parent's breasts will increase and decrease temperature according to the infant's needs!!


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During the Skin to Skin time directly after birth, there are 9 distinct stages that newborns go through in their preparation for feeding. From the parent's view it simply looks like your baby is crying, settling, napping, then eventually feeding, then perhaps sleeping again. What's fascinating (besides EVERYTHING) is that you may often watch your newborn self-attach. That is, find the breast themselves and innately latch on to feed. Sometimes parents and newborns engage in what's called Collaborative Feeding, where the infant clearly seeks the breast and the parents gently assists.

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Now, if you've had a Lactation Support visit with us, you know we like to talk about the "Factory Reset". (Wait, we can do that with our baby?!) YES! Skin to Skin, post birth, can absolutely serve as your handy Factory Reset. Even if you haven't done Skin to Skin before! Here's how it works:


Take off baby's clothes and your own. Hold baby skin to skin in bed, on the couch, wherever is comfortable for you. You can put a blanket over both of you to keep everyone warm and cozy. Observe baby for Feeding Cues (check back next week for that blog!) and as soon as you notice any, bring baby to your breast without delay. Alternatively, if Skin to Skin is going well and baby seems perfectly content, let them sniff around and perhaps they will naturally self attach in time! You can let your breast fall to its natural angle- and if you find its not working well like that, you can try a rolled towel underneath the breast, keeping your hands free and the shape of your breast unchanged.


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This Skin to Skin experience can happen as often as you want. Anytime you feel there's a struggle, a "setback", a stressful day, a fussy baby, anything- turn to your Factory Reset. Get comfortable, get undressed and belly to belly, and see what happens!

Breast/Chest/Body Feeding questions? Reach out to us for a Lactation Support appointment or join our monthly Feeding Hour, the first Tuesday of each month 10:30-11:30 via Zoom!


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