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Skin-to-skin: The First Embrace

April 2015

We at Step 2 Education International Inc. had a wonderful opportunity this past month to meet many of the Canadian team players working towards Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) status in each of the provinces. On several occasions the conference highlighted the importance of skin-to-skin and clarified the difference between “Kangaroo Mother Care” and skin-to-skin contact. Skin to Skin is part of Step 4 of the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, let's look at its importance.

The Breastfeeding Committee for Canada (BCC) opened their symposium with a Global Perspective of BFI presented by Dr Laura Haiek from Quebec who is part of the Nordic Quebec Neo-BFHI working group. For information about Neo-BFHI, ILCA has provided an excellent resource.

On several occasions the conference highlighted the importance of skin-to-skin and clarified the difference between “Kangaroo Mother Care” and skin-to-skin contact. We were reminded that skin-to-skin contact is part of Step 4 of the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding - World Health Organization (WHO): Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within a half-hour of birth. This step was clarified in 2009 and now is as follows: “Step 4: Place babies in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth for at least an hour. Encourage mothers to recognize when their babies are ready to breastfeed and offer help if needed.“

Canada has adapted the 10 steps and integrated the hospital and community steps. Canada’s integrated 10 Steps can be found here.

Step 4: Place babies in uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth for at least an hour or until completion of the first feeding or as long as the mother wishes: Encourage mothers to recognize when their babies are ready to feed, offering help as needed.

The presentation by Dr Louise Dumas reminded the attendees that skin-to-skin contact is best practice based on rigorous research and in the words of Dr. Dumas, “Skin-to-skin is not just something nice to do, it is something we must do!” Her recommendation for immediate, uninterrupted, skin-to-skin for the first 2 hours after birth is best practice. No drying, place baby widely on mother's chest, with the baby’s head free to move and maintain the airway, cover with a dry light blanket. Most important is that surveillance of mother and baby is key!

Last month the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific launched a campaign called “First Embrace” which highlights the importance of Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC). These are simple steps which save newborn babies lives and prevent complications associated with unsafe newborn care practices. EENC begins with the “First Embrace” or in other words, sustained skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby immediately after birth. To read more about the “First Embrace” campaign click here and there is a beautiful “First Embrace” video to watch here.

Enjoy, until next month

Carole and Lenore
Carole Dobrich, RN, IBCLC, ANLC & Lenore Goldfarb, PhD, CCC, IBCLC, ALC
Directors Step2 Education
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