At the end of April, I was privileged with the opportunity to spend a week in Lander, Wyoming becoming certified as a CLC (stands for certified lactation counselor). I knew little of Lander, Wyoming before spending the week there, but I can truly say that I grew to have a fondness for that town. And what is more, I also grew to have an even bigger desire to help mommas and babies with breastfeeding.
Wyoming: Lander was about a 5 hour drive away, and for some reason, I decided to head out a little before 6pm (mistake number 1). I also did not bother to look up the weather since it was beautiful and in the 70’s in Fort Collins. So I ended up driving through SHEETS of snow… through the mountains… with no service to guide my GPS… in the dark. Not the smartest move on my part. I finally got to my hotel close to midnight thinking that was not the best start to a week by myself in an unfamiliar town. Luckily, the week got MUCH better.
My CLC class consisted of about 25 nurses, 1 dietitian, and myself. I met some very sweet ladies early in the week and we quickly became friends. We sought out new restaurants to try each day and stumbled upon an organic brewery, a hole in the wall but amazing sushi joint, a quaint little sandwich shop that has grown up with the town, and last but definitely not least Old Town Coffee. I have decided that this is the best coffee shop that I have found to date (see below my favorite Almond, Soy Latte)! For a girl that has
a love for an obsession with coffee, that says a lot.
This week basically felt like a vacation. I got to spend a week talking about breastfeeding and then ended the week heading to the Grand Tetons! It was spur of the moment decision, but David drove up to meet me in Lander and then since the Tetons were only about 2 hours further, we headed up to spend the night in Jackson Hole, Wy (and crossed seeing the Tetons off of our bucket lists!). They were more more beautiful in person than I imagined.
Breastfeeding: But what this week was really about was the class. Like I said, I already had a fondness for breastfeeding, but this week made me realize that this fondness is quickly turning into a passion. I feel like I spent the entire week with my jaw dropped in awe of what a woman’s body was created to do. But one of the most impacting truths that I took out of this class (and what I would like to elaborate on today) is the importance of skin-to-skin with mom and baby after birth.
Directly after birth (if there is not a more pressing medical issue at hand), there is nothing better for the mom and the baby than spending at least an hour laying skin-to-skin.
- In the first hour following delivery, babies are in a calm and alert state and have an instinctual ability to latch on and breastfeed. This helps establish a good latch and a good breastmilk supply from the beginning.
- Skin-To-Skin touch helps facilitate important bonding between mother and baby.
- Skin-to-skin improves immediate and long term breastfeeding success.
- Studies are showing that babies who are placed skin-to-skin after birth lose less weight than those wrapped up and taken to a warming light. This is because the mother’s body helps regulate baby’s temperature rather than baby needing to burn extra calories to regulate their own body temperature.
- Babies cry less when they are placed skin to skin. Again, this means less calories burned after delivery.
- When mom and baby are together skin-to-skin, this helps stir up hormones (Oxytocin and Prolactin) that are necessary to help with successful breastfeeding.
- Oxytocin (which is known as the love hormone, and is responsible for contractions during labor) is also responsible for moving mother’s milk within the breast during breastfeeding. After delivery, a mother will produce this necessary hormone in a response to baby’s touch.
- Skin-to-Skin is shown to also increase levels of the hormone Prolactin which is responsible for telling the body to make milk.
- Mom’s who have a C-Section can still have their babies lay skin-to-skin after the procedure! This practice is extremely beneficial and especially important for C-Sections to help mom’s and babies off to a good start with breastfeeding.
What practical steps can you take to ensure a skin-to-skin experience with your baby?
- Make sure that your medical staff knows before you give birth that you are wanting to hold baby skin-to-skin. If they are strict on their rules of checking out the baby first, make sure they give the baby to you ASAP!
- Ask for the support of your family and friends with breastfeeding & explain to them why it is important to you. Sometimes it helps to set up visiting hours for family and friends to meet your precious newborn after you have time to be skin-to-skin.
If for some reason, mom and baby must be separated after delivery- don’t lose hope! Although the hormone amounts will be lower after this time period, it can be VERY beneficial to re-create this moment with baby when you first come back into contact (regardless of how long it has been). Simply lay the baby on mom’s chest skin-to-skin (preferably when baby has not been hungry for a long time) to give the baby a chance to connect with mom and to give the baby a chance to find the breast and breastfeed.
Although I have specifically been talking about skin-to-skin in terms of within the hours following birth, skin-to-skin can be very beneficial for many months following delivery in helping increase milk supply, learning you baby’s hunger cues, etc.
If you have ANY questions… remember that although this is a natural process for a woman’s body, we are not born knowing exactly what to expect or how to troubleshoot problems. Be sure to contact a local Lactation Counselor, find a good support group, or contact your hospital for further resources!
And a final disclaimer: I hold to my conviction that EVERY mom (regardless of their feeding choice) is a superhero. It is simply my desire to help mommas who want to breastfeed feel confident and equipped for their breastfeeding experience.