Keeping moms and babies together after birth, even in the case of a surgical birth

Angel on my shoulder
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Science and Sensibility is hosting another Healthy Birth Blog Carnival, the theme chosen is : keeping moms and babies together after birth. This healthy blog carnival will also be showcased on Lamaze’s latest website: Giving Birth with Confidence. I thought I’d focus this post on how to do that when you have a surgical birth, especially a caesarean birth.

Studies have shown the importance of the first moments between mother and child after birth, but what of mothers who had to give birth in an operating room? Whether their caesarean birth was necessary or not, these mothers and their babies need more than ever to bond and to spend as much time together as possible. Many hospitals routinely take the baby away and hand it back to mom only after she is out of the recovery room, when the effects of the anaesthetic has worn off. This may be a couple of hours! Here are some tips to bond with baby after a surgical birth:

Have skin to skin contact as soon as possible, even as soon as in the OR
Before you are wheeled in the operating room, remind your doctor and the staff that you wish to have baby skin to skin as soon as he/she is born, unless resuscitation is needed. Gently remind them that measurements can wait a few minutes and Apgars can be checked while baby is on you. The drapes shouldn’t prevent you from holding baby. The anaesthesia will probably cause you to be numb so someone else should hold the baby on you, your partner, your doula or a nurse can do that while you have some time with each other. This skin to skin will help your baby’s immune system and most of all imprint baby with your own special mommy scent. With a bit of luck baby may even latch right in the OR! This happened to a mom I know, who was allowed to have that skin to skin after her caesarean. But, unless you ask for it, most hospitals will just whisk baby away and you’ll only get to catch a glimpse of your child. Being in the OR can be intimidating but remember that your baby needs you and that nothing can replace those first few moments you share together. Having those few minutes will give you your best chances for a successful breastfeeding relationship and probably be of a great comfort after his/her dramatic entry in our world!

If you are lucky to be in a hospital that has the baby friendly standard, you may be allowed to have baby with you in the recovery room. This is the time to give baby a chance to try breastfeeding. If you are not allowed to have baby with you, make sure baby can spend time with someone familiar, like your partner or grandma.

Ask to room in with baby
Recovery from a caesarean can be painful and you may feel like you can’t do anything, but take advantage of the hospital bed to try different positions for holding baby or breastfeeding. You can move your bed up and down to find comfortable positions. Side-lying is a good option as it won’t put any pressure on your scar. Ask for additional pillows or have someone bring some from home. You can also use folded blankets to cushion the area around your scar and place baby on them to be able to hold baby close. Ask for an abdominal support belt ad wear it to support your abdomen, it will alleviate some of the pain and allow you to be more comfortable while holding baby and breastfeeding. If you can’t get your hands on such a support belt, recycle a belly band and use it to hold your abdomen. I used a snoogle pillow to help support my belly after the caesarean and it was great to hold baby while breastfeeding. Nurses and partners can be called upon to help you get baby from his bassinet. 

Get help for when you return home and go on a “babymoon”
Have friends and family help around the house with laundry, cooking and groceries. Remember that after the surgery you shouldn’t be lifting anything heavier than your baby. Your priority is to be with baby, rest, recover and should not be to entertain guests or keep the house spotless. Consider hiring a postpartum doula to help you both with your house and with baby. A doula can help with newborn care, reassure you and also help you treat yourself well! Many great pregnancy books suggest taking a “babymoon”, meaning not getting out of your comfy PJs, staying in bed as long as you want and spending as much time as possible cuddling and nursing baby. Let friends and family take care of you and your house. Don’t be shy to ask! The precious moments you spend with baby will trigger the oxytocin hormone to flow in your system, this incredible love hormone will promote a better bond with baby, help your milk come in and give you a feeling that you and your baby are just all love. It’s truly a wonderful feeling! Going on this babymoon may also help you fight back any postpartum depression. Moms who have had a surgical birth or a heavily medicated and assisted vaginal birth are more likely to suffer postpartum depression or post traumatic stress disorders. If you experience some of the symptoms associated with these, call your healthcare provider and get help as soon as possible. 

Co-sleeping and baby-wearing
These classical attachment-parenting means are great to promote a healthy and loving bond with baby. They also soothe babies and promote better sleep for both parents and children. If you are co-sleeping, it will make it easier for you to reach and nurse baby right in bed, rather than having to get up, which puts a bit of strain on your scar area.

Massage with a gentle touch
Baby massage is a great way to create a bond with your baby, soothe baby and help baby sleep better. Touch is really important for your child’s development, be it physical or emotional. Baby massage has been practiced for centuries by many different cultures. Today, experts have studied its positive results on babies with special needs or premature babies. Research has also demonstrated that mothers who suffered postpartum depression and their babies greatly benefited from baby massage. Baby massage relaxes, soothes and builds confidence in parents and children. Massage can also help mom mobilize her own scar and help her heal faster. You can use the same oils to massage baby’s soft skin and your scar area. Oils like organic coconut oil, rose oil or avocado oil are great. Easy techniques can be learned in workshops or books but you can also follow your instinct and gently stroke and massage your baby’s limbs.

Boobs are best for babes! And breastfeeding brings about a very special relationship between moms and babies. Breastmilk is the healthiest and most nutritious option for baby but will also help you slow down and take the time you need to be with baby. Forget the clocks and timed feedings and just go with the flow. Jump into a warm bath with baby. It’s a great way to nurse in a relaxed environment without straining yourself. If you encounter issues, get help from a lactation consultant, a knowledgeable mom or a support group like La Leche League. Sometimes it takes time to get a hang of it, so don’t give up!

Michel Odent, the reknown birth specialist, has spent many years studying all things related to primal health: those very crucial moments around baby’s time in the womb, birth and first year of life. Many studies have shown that this time is when many things are set for baby’s future health. It is really important to bring as much love, trust and kindness to both moms and babies in that time. Supporting moms to allow them to really discover their mammalian mothering skills is as important as providing them with a safe and gentle environment to give birth. 

As much as I wish every woman to experience a truly undisturbed and gentle birth, I also know that as of today, close to one out of three women in North America gives birth in the OR. It is up to us to demand things to change for the sake of our children, up to us to bring back a more humane and healthy perspective on birth. Hospital policies can be changed, but the consequences of risky practices for our children can’t. As a community, we can also support our fellow moms who have gone through a difficult birth, help them adjust to motherhood and their new babies, without judging, with compassion and care.

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