New mums with anxiety and depression can benefit from skin to skin contact.
Holding your baby against your chest in skin to skin contact has many benefits for their health and development. But it can affect parents positively as well. The release of oxytocin in both parent and baby's system during skin to skin contact can soothe nerves and calm worried minds. Daily skin to skin contact enables us to be truly present with our babies, lifting our mood, knowing our baby is in the perfect place. The warmth and familiar touch becomes a very special part of the day to enjoy together.
"My daughter and I were really struggling to establish breastfeeding, I was exhausted and shaky most of the time, unable to sleep or eat due to anxiety. Basically I was running on empty and my mind began to play tricks on me. I would wake up panicked that I had slept so long that harm must have come to my child, only to discover I had barely been asleep twenty minutes. I constantly worried I was getting everything wrong and that my baby would not be safe in my care. This went on for weeks and I was slowly losing my sense of self through the fear of failing her.
One day a breastfeeding counsellor talked to me about using skin to skin contact to take the pressure off trying to get my baby latched on to feed. I got myself settled quietly on my bed and stripped us both down, placing her on my chest where she could root and nuzzle. What happened next was like a bolt of electricity running over my skin. The instant warmth from the skin to skin contact spread across my chest and seemed to shake me out of the constant state of high alert I was living in. I was sobbing with relief and afterwards I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from me.
Every time we shared skin to skin contact after that day I felt it was healing the fear I had held onto since her arrival and allowing me release all the worry that had been gripping me. It was a real turning point in my journey into motherhood." (Nicole's experience of PNA and skin to skin contact)
Research shows that regular skin to skin contact has been shown to reduce symptoms of post natal anxiety or depression and support their recovery.
Parents who hold their babies this way every day become more attuned to their baby's cues and feel more confident to care for them as a result. In a recent study Anne Bigelow found that mums who held their babies in skin to skin contact every day had reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva and reported less symptoms of PND than peers who did not hold their babies skin to skin. (1)
Post Natal Depression and Anxiety - Sept 5-11th is PND Awareness Week.
As expectant parents we are bombarded by pictures of mums and babies, gazing into each other's eyes experiencing the euphoria of getting to know each other. These images hide the complexities of adjusting to life as a new parent, recovering from birth, coping with little sleep, and learning many new skills at a time of enormous change. It is not uncommon for most mothers to feel anxious or low after their baby is born. But for some mums the symptoms persist and can interfere with their daily lives. More than one in ten mothers will experience post natal depression or anxiety in the months following the birth of their babies. Many mums feel embarrassed to talk about or seek help for their symptoms but it is important to know that 'it's ok to not be ok'. The PANDAS Foundation is working to reach more new parents and support them to recognise and understand the symptoms of PND enabling them to seek help if they need it.
The Symptoms of post natal depression include:
The Royal College of Midwives recognises the important of skin to skin contact as key to bonding and support for the mother's emotional well being.
'What can midwives do to promote early bonding? Encourage mothers to have skin-to-skin contact with their baby soon after birth, and where possible, at other opportunities as well. Skin-to-skin care is the best way of getting to know the baby regardless of the method of feeding.' (2)
If you feel you are affected by symptoms of anxiety or depression you can find support at the PANDAS Foundation or through your GP or Health Visitor. Remember 'its ok to not be ok'. Sept 5-11th is PND Awareness Week. To find out more, including sources of support locally or online visit: www.PANDASfoundation.org.uk
(1) J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2012 May-Jun;41(3):369-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2012.01350.x. Epub 2012 Apr 26.
Effect of mother/infant skin-to-skin contact on postpartum depressive symptoms and maternal physiological stress