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Your baby’s state – The last few weeks in utero are spent in a very tight space with contained pressure from the womb walls. In addition your baby moves down a very narrow canal during birth. All this deep pressure touch is very regulating for your baby. During the birth process, your baby’s wonderful brain releases stress hormones that are important for him. The combination of the stress hormones and the deep pressure put your baby in to a very alert state for the first few hours after birth. In this alert state, your baby will make eye contact with you, look at your face intently and even mimic your mouth movements! This precious state provides a wonderful time to meet and engage with your baby.
- Turn down the lights so he can focus on your face
- Hold your baby 20cm from your face so he can focus
- Spend time just looking and touching and bonding with him
Feeding – Within a very short time from birth your baby must be offered a feed and latch on the breast. Although you will not have milk yet, your breasts are producing a wonderful substance called colostrum. Colostrum is made during the last few weeks of pregnancy and the first week after child birth. It has three times more protein but less sugar, and less fat than mature milk. In addition this magic early milk is full of antibodies which provide your baby with immunity to fight germs and bacteria. Babies naturally latch and if left on their mother’s chest have been filmed ‘crawling’ up to the breast to latch on their own. Feeding on demand or at least four hourly (if your baby is very sleepy you may have to wake him), is vital while establishing breast milk supply.
Touch – Coming from the soothing sensory space of the womb, your baby will crave your touch. Skin to skin care, which involves placing your naked baby (with only a nappy) on your naked chest, and covering you both with a blanket is a wonderful way to ease your baby from womb to world. Full term and prem babies do well with skin to skin care and your chest will act as a natural incubator to warm your baby up. Even babies delivered by caesarian section can be nurtured on mum’s chest unless they are in severe distress.
Sleep – After a period of calm alert state, you and your baby will be overcome with exhaustion. You will both do well to drop off to sleep. Your baby can sleep on you or in a crib right next to your bed. Research has shown that babies who room in with their mums in the first three days, breastfeed for a longer time in the first year of life. If you are exhausted and have had a tough time and need to sleep without your baby in the same room, request he is brought to you to feed as soon as he cries.
Your feelings – Your emotions are overwhelming on the first day and may vary from elation, awe and love to disinterest, feeling detached and exhaustion. All these emotions are completely healthy and normal. Do not worry if that ‘bonding’ moment does not happen for you. Many mums take weeks to connect with their babies and fall in love.
Enjoy meeting your baby for the first time, cherish that newborn smell and have confidence in your ability to care for your baby.
By Meg Faure