First Moments – You and Baby at Birth

There is only one thing to remember during the very first moments of meeting your baby, well maybe five… your five senses. Engage them to explore the wonders of this new life in your arms.

The Five Senses

1. Look at your baby and allow her the time to look at you
2. Listen, and together with your partner, talk to her – she is telling her story
3. Touch her use the vernix as a moisturizer and massage your baby’s body
4. Smell her and allow her to smell you – just before breastfeeding
5. Let her taste your milk – this takes patience there is no rush

There is so much information on what the mother should and can do to bond with her child right at birth, but little information about the father or partner’s role. In my doula practice I make sure that fathers have a clear idea of their important role right at the birth and beyond. Here are some tips on what both of you can do immediately after the birth to bond with the new baby.

1. Look

Ideally you have discussed your desires with your doula before the birth and stated in your birth plan that you would like all routine procedure (like eye ointment and vitamin K shot) to be delayed for a couple of hours so that the baby can rest immediately on the mothers chest. The eye ointment temporarily blurs baby’s vision or causes her eyes to stay closed. She needs a clear first impression of both of you, and you need to see those eyes. Your newborn can see you best with an eye-to-eye distance of eight to ten inches, about the usual nipple-to-eye distance during breastfeeding. Place your baby in the face-to-face position, adjusting your head and your baby’s head in the same position so that your eyes meet. Enjoy this visual connection during the brief period of quiet alertness after birth, before baby starts rooting for the breast. By looking at your baby you will discover an amazing new world within his eyes.

2. Listen and talk

When the baby is on mommy’s abdomen and chest immediately after birth, or after cutting the cord and suctioning your baby, get close and speak to your family. Baby will seem to be crying, but please listen to it as baby talk, after all that is her only language.  Often when parents hear their baby talk they say things like “no, don’t cry….shush, it’s ok.” But think about it, that is the first time your baby expresses herself don’t immediately deny her right to speak. So encourage it with “tell me more,’ or ” I hear you. ” During the first hours and days after birth, a natural dialogue will develop between daddy and infant. Voice-analysis studies have shown a unique rhythm and comforting cadence to the mother’s and father’s voice. I suggest to all my clients to create a little song they can sing to the baby while she is in the womb. Once born she will recognize not only your voice but, if you have created a song and sang it to her during her stay in mom’s womb, she’ll recognize that too. If you speak a different language it is never too early to introduce your child to your original language.  In case of an emergency and if your baby needs to be placed in the bassinet in the delivery room for suction or any other procedure it is daddy’s business to stay with the baby. Place yourself  “out-of-the-way” of the pediatricians attending the child, but if at all possible talk to the newborn and even allow him to grab onto one of your fingers. The baby knows you voice and your smell and it will comfort him.  I have seen screaming babies quiet down immediately when they heard their daddy’s voice.  What to say? “Welcome to the world my sweet, mommy and daddy love you so much.  Happy birthday, you are so beautiful, we love you so much.” Go ahead and get mushy, but if you can’t then tell the baby what they are doing to him and reassure him all is well. Tell him he will soon be with with mommy, which will soothe him, and also tell the staff you are eager to reunited mom and babe.  All the routine stuff like bracelet, measurements, etc are not an emergency and baby need to feel, smell and be with both of you.  A lot of researched has shown that the first two hours of life are critical for bonding, breastfeeding, and serenity for all.

3. Touch – Vernix Caseosa – Better for Your Baby

Touch your baby massage her back, kiss your partner. Let the baby  feel your touch. At the time when baby is making the transition to breathing, and the initial breathing patterns are very irregular, stroking stimulates the newborn to breathe more rhythmically–that’s the therapeutic value of a parent’s touch. Massage you baby’s entire body with long fluid strokes and tell him where his body ends and where the world begins.

The vernix caseosa is the waxy looking white substance that covers your newborn baby. When you see videos of a birth on television, you may see the doctors wiping off the “dirty” looking baby. If you think that this is a good idea, you may want to reconsider. This substance, made up of the skin oil and dead cells that the baby has shed in the womb, helps protect him or her from dehydration. Without the vernix caseosa, the baby would be born wrinkly from constantly being exposed to amniotic fluid.

Many babies suffer drying of their skin after birth. This causes them to become more easily irritated and scaly looking. If the vernix caseosa is left intact, the newborn will have more hydrated skin. In addition, the vernix caseosa also contains antimicrobials that are active against E. Coli, Group B Streptococcus, and other bacteria. So, leaving this substance intact, even though it’s not very pretty, can prevent your child from becoming ill. Keeping the child together with his or her mother, and delaying the bath, can prevent some infections that are caused by the presence of these bacteria in hospitals.

Scientific studies have shown that vernix works not only as a moisturizer. It’s also an effective cleanser, anti-infective agent, anti-oxidant and a wound healer. Studies are underway to find out how to synthesize the substance for use in helping children and adults who are in need of this substance’s benefits, and to act as a delivery system for medication and other treatments.

Preterm babies tend to have more vernix on them than those born at full term. This is because the amount of vernix caseosa present decreases as birth nears. This substance originally develops at around 27 weeks, and is present up until birth. Babies who are born before 27 weeks may not have any vernix present. Stable preterm babies should especially be allowed to spend some time with their mothers immediately after birth, without being bathed. This may assist them in feeling less discomfort and remaining healthier than if they were cleaned.

If you’re due to have a baby soon, you should talk to your doctor, midwife, and any other caregivers who might be present at your birth. Ask them not to wash your baby as soon as he or she is born, and to give you some time with the infant. Avoid washing your child, even if he or she appears dirty, for at least a little while. You may wish to rub this fatty, waxy substance into the skin to reduce the danger of dehydration. Vernix caseosa might look unappealing, but it’s really one of Nature’s defenses against dryness, bacterial infections, and other dangers that your newborn might encounter.

4. Smell

Most babies are content simply to lick the nipple. Smell your baby.  Consider not giving a bath for at least a week.  Studies have shown that a mother who was separaed from baby after two hours, could recognize her own baby in a room full of newborn by smell only.  You baby is not dirty and he needs to smell  your familiar scent to feel safe and comfortable.

5. Taste

Some babies are born with a strong desire to suck at the breast immediately after birth. This nipple stimulation releases the hormone oxytocin, which increases the contractions of her uterus and lessens postpartum bleeding. Early sucking also stimulates the release of prolactin, the hormone that helps mothering abilities click in right from the start. Often nurses will help and certainly a midwife can help you latch on.  But babies can and will latch on on their own given enough time.  Newborn babies who are laid on their mother’s bare tummies and left to their own devices after a natural childbirth can innately find their mother’s breast and latch on. This process is called “self-attachment”. Follow this link for a wonderful DVD.

What else can the partner do?

Once the breastfeeding is done, it is time for daddy to hold the baby in his arms and give mommy a little break. Making visual, tactile, olfactory, and auditory, connection with your baby right after birth will help you create a strong bond. No need to release this baby to the nursery–and you don’t have to. It is a good idea that healthy mothers, daddies, and healthy babies remain together throughout their hospital stay. Be ware, many hospitals will take your baby to the nursery for cleaning and measuring, if that is the case follow your baby and continue to talk to her and touch her. Also I have heard so many times caring nurses say “Let us have the baby in the nursery so that you can get some rest.” It is up to you of course, but I think the first hours of your new baby’s life are very important. It is very scary to go from being carried all day and night in your mommy womb, to resting in a plastic crib all alone in a semi-bright room full of crying babies. Mom has worked very hard, so help her rest by caring for the baby while in the room with her.

Skin to skin with daddy.

Besides enjoying the stimulation your baby receives from the skin-to-skin contact of chest to chest and cheek-to-chest, gently stroke your baby, caressing his whole body. Fathers often place an entire hand on their baby’s head, as if symbolizing their commitment to protect the life they have fathered. Besides being enjoyable, stroking the skin is medically beneficial to the newborn. Any chance you get remove your shirt and place the baby right on your chest with only her diaper on. Cover the baby with a blanket and enjoy each others company, make sure you keep him warm. The skin, the largest organ in the human body, is very rich with nerve endings. to learn how to play with your newborn follow this link you’ll be amazed at how many games you can play with a one or two day old baby.