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Skin-to-Skin Contact After Birth Benefits Moms, Newborns

Recognizing best practice, Adventist Midwest Health launches “kangaroo care” at four suburban hospitals.

Editor's Note: The following is a release from Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital.

In preparing for childbirth, Jean Howard had read about the importance of skin-to-skin contact. And as a medical resident in Adventist Hinsdale Hospital’s family residency program, Howard is more educated than most new moms when it comes to the importance of human touch for wellness and bonding.

That’s why the 29-year-old Forest Park resident is supportive of the hospital’s new skin-to-skin initiative. Also known as “kangaroo care,” skin-to-skin contact the first hour after birth is recognized as a best practice in birthing. Among the benefits to babies and mothers:

  • It encourages normal infant breathing and heart rate patterns;
  • Infants cry less and appear less stressed;
  • Babies stabilize their blood sugars and temperatures faster;
  • It promotes bonding, decreases maternal anxiety and decreases maternal postpartum pain;
  • It encourages the breastfed infant to use his own instinctual behavior to initiate feeding, but benefits all newborns regardless of feeding method.

Parent-to-newborn skin-to-skin contact has long been practiced in the Level III neonatal intensive care unit at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. The practice is now being extended beyond premature babies to all babies born at the four suburban Adventist Midwest Health hospitals: , Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. The goal is to promote bonding and to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth.

Prior to the birth of their infant, nurses are educating new parents and visitors on the importance of skin-to-skin contact after birth with minimal interruptions. Immediately after birth, the nurse places the newborn on the mother’s bare chest, quickly dries the baby, removes the wet linens, places a hat on the baby’s head, and covers mother and baby. After a successful feeding, the infant is swaddled or left in skin-to-skin contact with mom for at least an hour.

Normal newborn care – such as weighing, measuring, administering medications and taking footprints – is delayed for as long as possible until after the first feeding.

If the infant is initially unstable or needs to be taken from the mother, caregivers minimize the interruption and return the newborn to mom as soon as possible.

“In recognition of the importance of skin-to-skin contact, we’re calling the first hour after birth ‘happy hour’ to encourage all babies to spend the first hour after birth in their mother’s embrace,” said Shawn Tyrrell, chief nursing officer at Adventist Midwest Health.

The practice is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the World Health Organization and other groups. Nurses will encourage moms and dads alike to continue skin-to-skin contact throughout their hospital stay. It’s a trend that more and more U.S. hospitals are embracing.

“This first feeding is so important since it is linked to more successful breastfeeding,” said Patty Janicek, RN, lead nurse in the lactation consulting office at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. “While the majority of our mothers enter the hospital choosing to breastfeed, they often do not leave the hospital successful in their goal.”

In Illinois, 70 percent of mothers initiate breastfeeding in the hospital, but less than one in three are still exclusively breastfeeding their infants three months later. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies get no solids or liquids other than breast milk for the first six months of life. While there are several reasons for this, hospital practices have been linked to breastfeeding failure.

At Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, more than 90 percent of moms are still breastfeeding when they are discharged from the hospital; statistics are not yet available on how long they maintain breastfeeding at home, but Janicek and other nurses have begun making follow-up calls to start tracking those statistics. Their goal is to give moms the support they need to maintain breastfeeding as long as possible.

“When it comes to welcoming new arrivals, we do so much more than deliver babies,” Tyrrell said. “We are here to serve as a community resource when families prepare for childbirth, during labor and delivery and even after they go home.”

Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. To find a physician, visit www.keepingyouwell.com.

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