In Western culture, we tend to trust the process of pregnancy and the capability of a human body to grow and nourish a fetus, but there’s a moment between then and the approaching birth of the baby and beyond when that confidence is lost. Among other reasons, loss of trust in the female body forces mostly unnecessary and often harmful interventions on the process of labor and birth. Thereafter, though the safest place for most newborns immediately after birth is skin-to-skin with their birthing parent, common maternity practices often strip the dyad of this sacred, critical transition diminishing the capability of the mother and the infant.
As the authors of The nine stages of skin‐to‐skin: practical guidelines and insights from four countries put it, alarmingly, “despite the research and compelling directives from world authorities, the implementation of immediate, continuous and uninterrupted SSC for all healthy mothers and newborns, regardless of feeding choice, has not become standard practice.”
Last month, Kajsa Brimdyr, et al published the monumental Skin-to-skin contact after birth: Developing a research and practice guideline.
It’s an “excellent overview of the huge quantity of evidence supporting skin-to-skin contact after birth and give evidence-based guidelines, endorsing the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, that ‘immediate, continuous, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact should be the standard of care for all mothers and all babies (from 1000 grams with experienced staff if assistance is needed), after all modes of birth,’” Andrew Whitelaw writes in this editorial.
In the review, the expert panel– representing all continents but Antarctica– sifted through roughly 8,000 articles and ultimately pared down to only include those with a clear definition of immediate, continuous, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact.
The panel concluded that “delaying non-essential routine care in favour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact after birth has been shown to be safe and allows for the progression of newborns through their instinctive behaviours.”
The guideline includes the Pragmatic Implementation Guide for Skin-to-Skin Contact after Birth which serves as a how-to for staff, preparing them to facilitate skin-to-skin contact before and during the birth. The document is downloadable here: Appendix S1.
Brimdyr points out that none of the information presented is new; instead it’s consolidated in a way that hasn’t been done before.
“It takes the expertise of so many people and puts it in one place,” she explains.
“All of these babies, all of our mothers really deserve this opportunity,” Brimdyr advocates. “They deserve to have the best start. This research is so well established… the fact that we’re not doing it everywhere is absolutely upsetting.”
Also last month, Brimdyr released a new film, The 9 Stages of Premature Infants, which documents the nine stages as demonstrated by premature infants. The film brings to life the implementation of facilitating skin-to-skin for this population of infants and their parents.
“There is something absolutely magical seeing how capable babies are that really transforms any words on a page into reality,” Brimdyr says. “The research has been there to say premature babies can do this, but it’s so much more powerful to see premature infants do this.”
You can find a collection of skin-to-skin research here.