After you give birth, you and your baby may be physically separate, but even though you have cut the umbilical cord, your health and well-being are still closely linked with your baby’s. Your care should be designed to keep you and your baby together whenever possible. This article reviews couplet care, rooming in, and skin-to-skin contact.
Get Off to the Best Start Possible: Couplet Care, Rooming In, and Skin-to-Skin Contact
Couplet care involves the mom and baby being cared for as a pair by the same nurse or nursing team. When one nurse cares for mom and the other for the baby, there is less opportunity to identify issues that involve the relationship between the two. When one nurse cares for both she is better able to observe interactions between you and your baby and determine how breastfeeding and bonding are coming along. In addition to being a more family-centered approach, couplet care allows the nurse to act as a bridge between the pediatric and obstetric teams which enhances communication between all providers. A major component of couplet care is “rooming in” – a term to describe when mother and baby share the same room.
Gone are the days when healthy babies stayed in the nursery. Well-meaning nurses and providers in the past recommended that babies and moms be separated so the mother could get some extra rest. We now know that babies and mothers actually sleep better when they are together. Research shows that when a new mom and her baby share the same room, the mother has an easier time understanding her baby’s feeding cues. Simultaneously, the baby is comforted by being near the sound of mom’s heartbeat and the smell of colostrum in her breasts. Rooming in increases bonding between mother and baby, allows for more skin to skin contact, and leads to more confident parenting at an early start. Diminished exposure to potential sources of infections is another benefit of keeping baby with mom and away from other newborns and hospital staff. Nurseries are for babies that require special care or observation but, even then, the baby should be with mom for feedings whenever possible.
Rooming in allows more opportunity for mom and baby to experience skin-to-skin contact, also referred to as “kangaroo care.” The benefits of “skin-to-skin” are numerous, including deeper bonding between mother and baby, easier breastfeeding, and quicker stabilization of baby’s temperature, breathing, and blood sugar. Babies are calmer while against mom’s chest and skin, feeling her warmth, and hearing her familiar voice. They cry less, sleep better, and experience reduced stress when they have skin-to-skin contact with their mother. The safest way to practice skin to skin is to hold your baby upright, face towards you between your breasts while being careful that the nostrils are unobstructed for adequate breathing. Keep a blanket over the baby’s back and only engage in skin to skin contact when you are awake and alert. If you drift asleep your baby could slip from your arms and fall off the bed. If you feel drowsy do not hesitate to call your nurse so she can help you transfer the baby into the bassinet in your room.
Skin to skin contact should start immediately after birth, assuming the baby does not require any special care. If you are scheduled for a Cesarean section, ask for the family-centered version during which the baby is placed on your chest soon after the surgery. Don’t miss the chance to experience this special bond with your baby right from the start!
At Baby+Company we believe in the importance of skin-to-skin contact immediately following the birth of your baby and we would love to help you and your baby get the best start possible. Contact us for more information about prenatal, labor & birth, and postpartum care at our boutique birth centers.