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Skin-to-Skin, Babies, Biology and Breastfeeding

line infant gazing over shoulder

Sheltered from the storm and flooding, my colleagues and I were inside, learning more and discussing the biology of skin-to-skin care, babies, breastfeeding and many other topics. It was a weekend conference for Lactation Consultants.

I see, again and again, that what we learn with new research reaffirms what our bodies already know. The more you understand the human body, in all it’s variations, the more you will be amazed and reassured. Why don’t we, as humans, trust and understand our bodies better? This has never served us well.

Imagine if lactation was part of middle and high school health curriculum. This means more than breast-feeding. The process of making milk, lactogenesis, involves adolescent and adult growth, immune function, nutrition and long-term health benefits. With this as a background, a teenager, (as an adult), could understand decisions that affect themselves and their future family.

Our bodies haven’t changed over many millenia. However, social policies fluctuate with budgets, politics and popularity. Some hospitals promote skin-to-skin contact though others do not. Some parenting books encourage ‘cry it out’ while others promote more frequent holding. How are you to know what to do?

Our nutrition, emotions, and immunities are intertwined for survival. Learn more about the basic biology and trust that.

Here are three basic facts I hope every man and woman will understand.
1. When babies are held in direct skin-to-skin contact, the parent radiates warmth and keeps the baby’s temperature even… even better than a blanket and heated incubator.

2. A new mother has milk as soon as her baby is born. The body knows what that baby needs. Whether preterm or full term, the mother’s breast milk will be just right for her baby and will change to meet the baby’s needs.

3. A parent’s voice and touch (skin to skin) is calming to the infant. The whole environment of the parent’s body is good for the baby and actually helps babies develop their immune system.

There are many amazing things the body does to grow, give birth to and nurture a new human being. You, the healthy parent, have much to provide for your child with your voice, touch, smell and warmth. Learn more about what your body already knows and trust what you can do.

Some research and resources about skin-to-skin care:
Kangaroomothercare.com ` www.medscape.com/viewarticle/806325_9

Neonatal pain and reduced maternal care: Early-life stressors interacting to impact brain and behavioral development. Mooney-Leber SM1, Brummelte

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