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INTRODUCTION

I want immediate skin-to-skin contact with my baby

After pushing hard and long to deliver my daughter, there was a moment of perfect peace when they laid her on my chest. The early morning light was just coming in through the window and there was a faint mist glowing in the air from the rain the night before. She lifted her head up, opened her eyes, blinking several times, and then stared right into me. All the fussing she had been doing quieted as she just took me in. I remember thinking that no one would ever know me like this little person who had come from me, who was half me. In that moment, she was not an infant. She held a wisdom in her eyes beyond my own, like she knew all the secrets of the universe. It was the most beautiful moment of my life.

—A. B., new mother

In busy, modern labor and delivery units, the most important thing that has been lost to technology is an appreciation and respect for the blessed moment of welcoming new life into the world. In all the medical zeal and general angst that accompanies those first minutes after a baby is born, it is rare that the team slows down long enough to honor the moment and to allow space for the parents to experience and appreciate the first precious gaze of their new child. Parents are also guilty of rushing through the moment, often too busy worrying about getting a picture or notifying family to really take it in. But in truth, there is little that “needs” to be done in those first minutes. Weighing and footprints can wait. Babies are capable of coughing and sneezing in order to expel the fluid which nurses and doctors are so quick to suction. The cord can be left alone. Family in the waiting room or a few states away is capable of pacing in anticipation for a few minutes more. The first minutes that a parent spends with their child is a time which should be remembered and staff should count themselves privileged to witness it, not inconvenienced by the few extra minutes it takes to keep it sacred.

Skin-to-skin contact refers to the practice of placing the newly born, naked infant, directly to mother’s chest. The infant is placed “tummy to tummy” on the mother’s abdomen or chest, with only a warm blanket placed on top of the child. The mother’s body temperature maintains the baby’s body temperature at a thermoneutral range and the process of breastfeeding is initiated.1 Any necessary infant care is performed on the mother’s chest, except in the event of a true emergency.

Until the twentieth century, skin-to-skin contact and limited separation of mother and child was the norm and essential for survival of the neonate in a time without formula ...

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