Is skin to skin contact on your birth plan? A guide to planning for labour and birth.
How do you prepare for the biggest moment of your life? Educating yourself on the process of labour and birth, deciding what choices and options to include in your birth plan and packing a bag of essentials are all important steps to take as your baby's estimated due date comes closer. The National Childbirth Trust has lots of great information to help you prepare for giving birth explaining the stages of labour, how to choose where to give birth and who your birth supporter might be.
Choices about where you would like to give birth, what care and pain relief you would prefer, what support you would like during labour and how you hope to feed your baby are all important elements to consider. Putting skin to skin contact as part of your birth plan, and packing a comfortable and supportive kangaroo care top or wrap are great ways to ensure you are ready to welcome your baby in this simple and beautiful first act of parenting, connecting on a deeply emotional and physical way when you first meet your baby.
What is a birth plan?
A birth plan is a way of communicating your needs and preferences to the health professionals who will be caring for you and your baby during labour and immediately after baby is born. Birth plans can be written in any style or format. It is important to include all the key things you feel you will need to support you during labour and the preferred choices you would like followed as much as possible, during the birth and once your baby is born. For example, how you wish to be monitored, how and when baby's cord will be clamped, who will confirm your baby's gender etc. Planning for skin to skin contact to be one of your baby's earliest experiences and a regular part of their daily routine is an easy and enjoyable way to spend time together whilst knowing you are boosting their health, growth and development. We really like the guidance on writing a good birth plan from My Birth Box there's a video and a birth plan template on the page.
What do I need to pack for my labour and birth?
Whether you expect to give birth at home, in a birth centre or hospital it is always a good idea to have a bag of essentials ready and packed by your third trimester. We love the brilliant suggestions of what to add to your bag from Emma's Diary like including your favourite snacks and drinks, slippers or socks, a sponge or water spray, lip balm, massage oil and a relaxing essential oil, a great play list or some CDs, a nursing bra, soft maternity pants and pads and some simple layers to dress your baby for travelling home. Think about what you will wear during labour, you will probably get very warm so it's worth packing layers that are easy to remove and once baby arrives you will want to dress comfortably and have easy access to breastfeed and have skin to skin contact.
Choosing what to wear for skin to skin contact doesn't have to be expensive. Our 'Simply Skin to Skin' collection has options starting from just £17.99 like the Bump to Baby Bandeau. This versatile bandeau in soft stretch cotton folds down very small to pop in your birth bag, or can be worn in late pregnancy as a bump and hip support. During labour use the bandeau to keep your breasts covered then gently place it around your baby to keep you both warm during immediate skin to skin contact.
Can I have skin to skin contact as soon as my baby is born?
Where possible a mother and baby should be able to spend time skin to skin for an uninterrupted hour immediately after birth. Once essential checks have been made, many of which can happen whilst baby is on mum's chest, ask your health care team to keep the noise levels and lights low, and to give you and your baby time to rest and get to know each other. Ensure both you and and baby are warm enough and comfortable by wearing something that supports baby on your chest and covers your body to maintain your own temperature. Your baby's heart rate, body temperature and respiration will usually stabilise during skin to skin contact, easing their transition from the womb to the world. During this time babies are observed to make independent movements towards their mother's breast and latch on for the first time. Being held against mum's skin can help prime the baby's immune system and reduces the risk of infection.
It's never really possible to predict exactly how things can go during labour, and of course babies can come early and need neonatal care. But, however and whenever your baby arrives skin to skin contact is always a wonderful way deepen your bond with each other.