Skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant immediately after birth and rooming together during the hospital stay have enormous benefits for a new mom and her newborn, new research suggests.
"The preponderance of evidence suggests that we are doing a disservice to mothers and babies if we don't keep them together right after birth," Jeannette Crenshaw, who conducted a review of this topic, noted in a telephone interview with Reuters Health. "There are researchers who would say that it is harmful to separate mothers and babies after birth," she added.
Lower levels of stress hormones
The results of studies suggest that newborns placed skin-to-skin on their mothers adjust more easily to life outside the womb, Crenshaw has found. The infants cry less and have lower levels of stress hormones.
Babies who room-in with mom in the hospital are also less fussy and easier to soothe, and sleep more soundly than babies who sleep in hospital nurseries. They also breast-feed sooner, gain more weight, and are less likely to develop jaundice.
"Mothers are more confident in their mothering skills when they room-in with their babies," noted Crenshaw, of the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas, clinical education specialist for The Centre for Learning at Texas Health Resources and current past president of Lamaze International.
The argument that new mothers will get more rest if the baby stays in the nursery, Crenshaw said, is a myth that has been perpetuated for a long time. "Research has not been able to substantiate this; in fact it has been shown that there is no difference in the amount of sleep mothers get if their babies are in the room or in the nursery," she told Reuters Health.
As nature intended
"Nature intended for mothers and newborns to be together; it's unnatural to separate them, added Crenshaw.
More and more hospitals across the country are moving toward keeping mothers and babies together after birth, she noted, and "more and more women are learning about the benefits of not being separated from their baby and are planning their births in a place where they know they won't be separated."
"I would encourage women to look for hospitals where they know they will not be separated, tell their caregiver that they plan to hold their baby skin-to-skin and take care of their baby in their room while in the hospital," Crenshaw said.
SOURCE: The Journal of Perinatal Education: Advancing Normal Birth, 2007. – (Reuters Health)