Have you ever paused to think about how culture impacts the process of giving birth? Do you ever wonder what giving birth in other countries is like? Have you ever considered that there may be certain practices our culture has adopted less because it’s evidence based but more because it’s “just what we’ve always done”? The following 3 mistakes to avoid immediately after birth are exactly that.
Our culture has a preference towards physician centered care but also has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality compared to other industrialized countries.
While reading about the mistakes to avoid immediately after birth, you may notice that these practices are not mother and baby centered. Unfortunately, they’re more centered around the convenience of care providers or other observers. Mother and baby centered care, while outside of the box for some, has been proven to increase positive outcomes for mothers and babies and should be the goal for maternity care.
3 Mistakes to Avoid Immediately After Birth
The following mistakes to avoid immediately after birth may feel challenging, especially if it goes against something you have always thought to be true. If you notice yourself resisting a particular idea, I challenge you to ask yourself why. Be curious with your thoughts, and perhaps even bounce them off a trusted friend.
Let’s get started!
1. Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner
“Separation is a 20th century paradigm.” Nils Bergman
First on this list of mistakes to avoid immediately after birth, is the separation of a mama and her baby. When I first became a doula in 2007, cords were immediately cut and babies were taken to a in-room warmer to be assessed, measured, and cleaned before they were allowed to see their mothers. Some babies, however, were lucky and had a couple of minutes of skin-to-skin before they were whisked away.
What I saw years ago was actually an improvement to going even further back, where babies were taken out of the room, and for longer periods of time. Some mothers weren’t even awake for their births! (A former co-worker of mine once told me that after she woke up after giving birth she picked up the phone and asked the nurse if she had a boy or girl. Wrap your mind around that one.)
At least these 2007 babies were kept in the same room as mom. Yay?
In recent years there has been a shift in my community to letting babies stay with their mothers, skin-to-skin, for the first hour or so after birth. It has been such a joy to see the benefits of this first hand.
Babies should not be separated from their mothers. Just because it’s something we’ve always done, doesn’t mean it’s what we should continue to do.
Bathe the Baby
“Glucose levels in infants are higher with skin-to-skin as they don’t spend any energy warming themselves.” – Nils Bergman
When I first began attending births it was standard protocol to bathe babies within the first hour. Let me tell you, these babies were NOT happy about their bath (nor life for that matter). They spent a lot of energy crying but also regulating their temperatures. Wet babies in air-conditioned hospitals get cold fast. By the time these babies got back to their mothers, they were exhausted and breastfeeding became secondary to rest.
Bathing baby soon after birth isn’t typically necessary. Babies aren’t dirty! In fact, it’s just the opposite. Infants have a protective layer of vernix, a white “cold cream” like substance, on their skin that acts as an anti-biotic that NEEDS to stay on. Instead of washing it off, consider rubbing it in. It’s there for a reason!
Infants aren’t meant to be separated from their mothers and they certainly aren’t meant to spend lots of energy regulating their own temperatures. Delay the bath! It’s not as high of a priority as breastfeeding, bonding, and healthy glucose levels are.
TIP: When mamas are in labor they get really hot. By the time baby is born the room can be quite chilly because mama requested the ac to be set at arctic blast and the ceiling fan to tropical force winds. This environment is great for a laboring mom, but not so great for a fresh newborn. Once baby is born, turn the fans off and the ac to a normal temperature. This will help baby out a lot!
Swaddle the Baby
If for some reason a baby cannot be held by a human being skin-to-skin, sure, the next best thing is for it to be swaddled. Swaddling keeps babies warm but also keeps their startle reflex from… startling themselves. Swaddling keeps babies snug as a bug in a rug.
But don’t be fooled! Swaddling isn’t the gold standard immediately after birth . Babies do best when they’re skin-to-skin with a human, preferably their mother.
If your baby gets handed to you all swaddled up, feel free to unwrap your gift and set that sweet baby on your chest. (You can even do this during a cesarean birth!) Trust me on this, everything is better with a little bit of skin-to-skin. It’s real good stuff.
TIP: Ask for a heated blanket to place over you and your baby. The warmth and the weight of the blanket can help settle post-birth shakes, which are normal, no matter how you give birth. The heated blanket will also help keep your baby warm in a chilly hospital room.