Observations on Skin-to-Skin Contact

by Nikki Lee, RN, MS, IBCLC, CCE



[A response to this post is found in Predictable Behavior Patterns for Self Attachment, which is also on this site.]


Some of the mainstays of my lactation work are skin-to-skin care, remedial co-bathing, hand expression of milk, and self-attachment.


I have observed something that some neonates (babies that are no more than a month old) do when they are skin-to-skin on mom's chest, working to self-attach, with the mother doing nothing but making a friendly fence with her arms to prevent baby from falling off her chest. (Mom is reclining on her back.)


These babies go through cathartic cycles. They start to seek the breast, then have some emotional outburst. They wail and cry and may flail their arms and heads a bit. They may attach to the breast for a suck or two, then detach and start crying. They may get red and roar, they are so powerful in their emotional expression. Then they rest. This cycle of seeking, emotional outburst and rest may be repeated up to 4-5 times. Once that cycling is done, the next time they seek, they will self-attach and stay feeding. This is a huge first step to breastfeeding recovery.


One of the elements of CranioSacral Therapy is somatoemotional release. If any of you have had an emotional surge during a massage, you've had a somatoemotional release. Feelings are stored in the cells, and are released when the conditions are right. A safe, warm and dim environment with a calm and open atmosphere makes for right conditions. Skin to skin is the best condition for a baby to feel safe enough to talk about what has happened to them after birth.


I have seen this pattern of behavior enough that I can predict it, which helps mothers to stay open, talk to their babies, and listen to their babies. The babies are telling their story. I see this a lot when there is birth injury or when there is forced latch and mother goes home fighting with her baby to breastfeed. This pattern is part of the breastfeeding recovery process.


It is important for the breastfeeding helper to stay calm, and to help the mother stay calm. This is the same kind of calm that a labor support person must have to be able to help a woman make it through her labor. Laboring women can make a lot of noise; they don't need rescue from the process. They need loving support in a safe environment. Babies are the same way.


Has anyone else observed this?





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