A cuddle for newborns 'fights infections'
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A cuddle for newborns 'fights infections' By JENNY HOPE 19:59pm 15th August 2006

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New mothers should hold their naked babies next to their skin for the first hour after birth so they can bond together, says a leading midwife. The 'golden hour' helps calm the baby, build up resistance to infection and get breastfeeding off to a good start.
Dr Mary Price, a lecturer in midwifery at the University of Salford, said women should resist attempts by hospital staff to 'whisk away' the baby shortly after the birth, espcially after having a Caesarean section.
Although it is common practice to allow mother and baby 10 minutes together skin-to-skin, it's not long enough to give them time to get the bonding process underway, she said.
She said 'I would like midwives throughout the UK to learn the benefits of leaving the baby with its mother for much longer.
'It's important to have an immediate assessment of the baby's condition after birth - but an experienced midwife can do that simply by looking at them, without taking the child away. I've known situations where the baby has been taken away because it needs help with breathing. But the baby goes from extremely anxious-looking to a rosebud pink within minutes once they are taken back into the mother's arms.'
She believes mothers need to be given more information on the importance of skin-to-skin contact for calming the baby and building up resistance to infection.
Babies have a 'primitive urge' to find food and naturally head for the breast if left long enough, she told Nursing Standard magazine. The hour after birth can also shape a child's emotions and there should be no rush to clean it up, she added.
Dr Price's methods have been routinely adopted at Rochdale Infirmary and she hopes they will become known nationwide.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said such close bonding had 'excellent benefits' for mother and child but there were currently no rules on how long a baby should remain in skin contact.
Dr Price, who has been awarded a PhD for her research, said there was huge variation in practice around the UK, with babies born at Rochdale Infirmary in the past being placed on the mother for just 10 minutes.
However, a longer period of time allowed for close bonding and had numerous benefits for the baby, she said.
She said 'Uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact reduces the baby's adrenalin level after birth and its colour will improve as its heart rate begins to settle.
'The baby will stop crying within minutes and the mother's temperature keeps the baby warm. It gets comfort and warmth and the skin bacteria from the mother covers the baby's skin and gives protection.
'Babies also have an outstanding sense of smell at birth, it's a primitive instinct, and they start going towards the smell of food at the breast. It's the same sort of primitive urge that animals have.'
Dr Price said she was pro-choice and women who decided to bottlefeed rather than breastfeed would get the same benefits from skin-to-skin contact.
Dr Price said both baby and mother were influenced by birth hormones which produced a 'euphoric state'.
The baby 'may need to be dabbed on the way up to its mother' but should then just be covered with a warm blanket or towel and left, she said.
'In our busy world we are used to having one experience and rushing onto the next one. But at birth the mother and child need to get to know one another and there needs to be time for the baby to settle.
'A lot of women maybe don't know about the importance of skin-to-skin contact. If you don't know about the benefits then why would you choose it?
'Some mothers do want their baby wrapping up but they should be given that choice.'
Gail Johnson, the RCM's education and professional advisor, said 'There is no laid-down time scale but UNICEF's Baby Friendly Initiative is clear that skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby is an excellent way to encourage bonding and breastfeeding.
'The RCM supports that because there are enormous benefits through better bonding. The RCM would always encourage the mother to decide because some mothers will always prefer baby clean and wrapped before the first touch.'
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