Use natural newborn care to build a strong bond with your baby at birth and far beyond. Respecting your baby's (and your body's) natural signals makes him or her healthy and builds your confidence as a mother.
The First Moments
Be with your newborn as soon as possible after birth. Skin to skin immediately is the best – though not required. Human beings do not have the same vital “imprint period” that other animals do. Loving, attached adoptive families all over the world show this. It's best to spend as much time skin-to-skin as soon as possible. See The Case for Bonding at Birth for more information (opens in a new tab).
It doesn't matter where you decide to give birth – if there are no complications, bring your baby up to your chest and your breasts.
If you're giving birth in a hospital ask that all newborn procedures be delayed until after your baby's first nursing. You are the parent and you are the consumer – you have the right to demand your child be given to you!
If you adopt your baby, stay with your baby as soon as possible after birth. Arrange to spend plenty of time bonding with your baby if he or she is older.
Remember an adopted baby, or a baby who has had a traumatic birth experience, may take some time to “warm up” to you. Don't stop trying. Spend plenty of time skin-to-skin with your baby; you can help him heal.
Holding a resistant baby fully swaddled or clothed and gradually moving towards more skin-to-skin contact may be helpful as he adjusts to a new life.
Give your baby time to rest if she seems tired or over-stimulated, but try to encourage your baby to make eye contact with you. Swaddling helps many babies feel secure, so use that if it helps your baby calm down.
Routine but Not Required – Newborn Procedures
The hospital doesn't need to take your baby from you to have tests and procedures done. The pediatric team can safely delay the newborn exam. If fact, they can even delay your baby's weight check. The nurse or midwife can monitor your baby's heart rate and breathing while baby is in your arms.
Your doctor or midwife will probably do an APGAR score of your baby, which tests your baby at 1 and 5 minutes after birth.
APGAR stands for Activity (muscle tone), Pulse, Grimace (reflexes), Appearance (skin color), and Respiration. Again, your nurse or midwife can check and record and APGAR with baby in your arms. There is no need to take the baby away.
Keep your baby warm with skin-to-skin contact. Put your baby on your chest and cover both of you with warmed blankets. The routine practice of isolating a healthy new baby in a warmer is not necessary.
Place a soft cloth or small disposable pad (“chux pad” or blue pade) under your baby's bottom if you're worried about meconium getting on you. (Meconium is the sticky substance that makes baby's first bowel movements, more on that later in this article!)
Cutting the cord as soon as your baby emerges isn't required. Make it clear you want delayed cord clamping (cut the cord after the placenta is born). You can unwrap the cord from your baby's neck or shoulders if it's looped.
The cord delivers a lot of oxygen-rich blood in those last few minutes. It's so significant that your baby gets almost a month's supply of iron from that blood (equal to the iron in about 36 gallons of breastmilk)!!! It makes up around 40% of your baby's blood supply
Vernix, a creamy white substance, may cover your baby. In the womb vernix protects your baby's skin. Once your baby is born you can rub any vernix into her skin. Think of it like rich body butter made just for your baby.
Rubbing can help your baby if she is “slow to start,” but a vigorous rub down to clean the vernix off of your baby isn't necessary. A full term baby may not have much vernix!
Eye treatment is given to babies to help prevent infections that the baby may have picked up on their trip through the birth canal.
In some states in the United States it is a law that babies have this treatment. It's irritating to babies' eyes and causes blurry vision. If your state requires it ask that it be delayed for an hour or so. Opt out of eye ointment if you can (unless you have an active vaginal infection).
Vitamin K is another routine treatment given to babies. It's believed to help newborn blood to clot (because newborn blood is low in vitamin K for the first several days after birth.)
Nurses can give a Vitamin K dose as an injection or orally. It's a foreign substance introduced into your baby's body. Newborns begin Vitamin K production around the eighth day of life. If you decide to get Vitamin K for your baby I recommend you insist on it being given orally.
If you're in the hospital the issue of vaccinations will come up. The Hepatitis B vaccine is often given to newborns. Research the Hep. B vaccine, and all vaccines, very carefully. For a balanced view from a mostly pro-vaccine doctor read The Vaccine Book (I recommend this well-written book). For reasons to consider not vaccinating read Healing Our Children (very thought-provoking with excellent info on child nutrition, too)
Getting a balanced view is a good idea. Do Not let anyone force you into getting your child vaccinated if you choose to delay or fore-go vaccination.
One of the most emotionally charged newborn care choices today is that of circumcision. Many parents today opt-out, but many choose circumcision for religious reasons. Remember your baby does feel pain, so you can and should request the doctor or mohel use pain blockers for your son.
If you do decide to have a circumcision performed on your baby waiting until your newborn's own vitamin K production has begun around the eighth day of life is a wise choice.
This age is traditional in cultures that circumcise for religious or cultural reasons. Consider requesting that a specialist perform the surgery on your baby and insist on pain relief for your child. Again, circumcision is a surgery to remove part of your son and it's not medically necessary. Weigh the choice carefully.
A Celebration Supper
Give your baby colostrum from your breasts as his or her first meal. Some hospitals try to take your baby away to give a drink of formula or sugar-water (“glucose” water). Don't allow this.
Getting your breastfeeding relationship off to the best start means nursing as soon as possible after birth. Within the first thirty minutes is ideal. You don't want the nursery to give any supplements that may make breastfeeding harder.
Your baby will instinctively search for your breast. Observers have noticed that newborns placed on their mother's chests will actually “creep” towards her breasts to latch on! Your baby's natural licking, smelling, and creeping movements activate hormones in your baby that stop postpartum bleeding, too. When you honor this time it creates safety for both of you.
Your baby's immediate nursing is also wonderful. It stimulates your uterus to contract, which again lessens blood loss and helps expel your baby's placenta.
These early minutes and hours with your baby are a priceless time. Take the time that you need to bond with your baby; just being with your baby. In most cases, everything else can wait!
I highly recommend you also pamper yourself and your baby by enjoying a lying in period.
I cover newborn procedures in depth in our online birthing class series – click to get more information on MamaBabyBirthing classes. The classes also cover how to care for your new baby and enjoy the early weeks 🙂