It’s common practice for conventional deliveries: baby is placed on mom’s bare chest, immediately after birth. But for babies born by caesarian section, “skin to skin” in the operating room hasn’t usually been an option. Until now.
After a successful pilot program, Covenant Health’s Grey Nuns Community Hospital, the Misericordia Community Hospital and the Bonnyville Health Centre are offering parents of C-section newborns the chance to do skin to skin.
Because the practice requires one nurse in the operating room dedicated to observing the baby, the new initiative sometimes requires extra staff. But other changes are minor: adding a chair for dad to comfortably hold baby and moving mom’s heart monitors from her chest to her back.
Clinical nurse educator Heidi de Lange says any extra effort is worth it when it comes to a baby’s health.
“(Skin to skin) helps (newborns) to stabilize their heart rate, stabilize their breathing (and) helps them to stay warm,” de Lange explained.
“(Research) shows that babies who go skin to skin initially after birth usually initiate breastfeeding sooner and have been able to breastfeed longer.”
She adds there are also benefits for mothers.
“It actually stimulates the oxytocin in the mom’s system, which is what helps the milk production and helps… release of that happy hormone.”
Robin Forslund of Sherwood Park wasn’t able to do skin to skin with her first daughter. Avery was born by emergency C-section in 2013.
But delivering her new baby, Ainsley, by planned C-section in September was a better experience. Though Forslund wasn’t feeling well for the first few minutes, Ainsley’s father, Jordon, was allowed to hold her skin to skin immediately after birth. Then came mom’s turn.
“Going through surgery and having a baby is a little bit of an anxious experience,” Forslund said.
“So really, just holding her, it made everything just feel… right.”
Ainsley started breastfeeding 15 minutes later.
The Grey Nuns Hospital delivers about 550 babies per month. About 30 per cent are born by C-section. Since the program started in the spring, de Lange says most parents have been able to do skin to skin.