I really felt the need to respond to yesterday’s article in the West  Australia  entitled Fad Blamed For Deaths of Babies 

In this article  Dr Micheal Gannon makes the outrageous claim that “There is this new obsession amongst mothers and midwives with immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth.” He even goes as far as to blame this on recent newborn deaths at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

My heart goes out to the families concerned and I am stunned that Dr Gannon appears to be putting the blame on Mums and Midwives rather than looking at obstetric practices.

When Did Wanting to Hold Your Baby Become “a Fad”?

Wanting to hold your baby after birth is not a fad, nor is it anything new.

Women have been doing it for centuries for the benefit of the baby and the new mum.

Our leading maternity hospital, King Edwards Memorial Hospital, has signs posted all over promoting the practice because of the known benefits.

skin to skin

Research has proved that immediate skin-to-skin contact 

  • improves physiologic stability for both mother and baby,
  • increases maternal attachment behaviours,
  • protects against the negative effects of maternal–infant separation,
  • supports optimal infant brain development,
  • promotes initiation of the first breastfeeding, 
  • and it can also lower the risk of a PPH (bleeding too much after birth).

 

The evidence is so clear that I actually wont bother arguing the point. If  Dr Gannon is truly unaware of the benefits then I suggest he attends the  Skin-to-Skin Evidence and Implementation: A One-Day Seminar with world renowned  Dr Nils Bergman, in Perth in May this year, to further his own professional development. I will certainly be going.

 

What I really take issue with in this article, is the fact that Dr Gannon does concede that it may be the opiates, epidurals and caesarean sections that are interfering with a new mum’s physical and mental ability to care for her baby after birth. However his solution to this problem is not to examine obstetric practices and look at ways of reducing drugs and intervention, so that we optimise the physiological processes and the new mum is in the perfect state to meet and care for her baby. No, his solution is not to let new Mum’s hold their newborn babies unless they are supervised.

 

The article also doesn’t mention the effects the opiate drugs,epidurals and caesarean sections have on babies and their abilities to adapt to life outside the womb.

It is my sincerest hope that Dr Gannon is just playing Devil’s Advocate, because I would hate to think a “prominent Perth obstetrician” is really not aware of the hormonal processes of physiological birth and the postnatal period.

I’d really encourage him to read this wonderful, free, comprehensive report which examines the Science on the Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing and Its Implications for Women, Babies and Maternity Care : HORMONAL PHYSIOLOGY OF CHILDBEARING.

Perhaps then he would recommend  looking at ways to supporting women to optimise the physiological processes of natural birth, breastfeeding and beyond rather than denying women the right to hold their babies whenever they want to wants to.

And personally, I think that if a medical professional knows that his/her actions (such as induction, epidural, cascade of interventions, emergency caesarean) have lead to a state where a mum is not in the right physical and mental state to meet and hold her baby, then he/she has an obligation to stay with that woman and baby (or at the very least ensure someone else stays with them), making sure they are safe, for as long as that mum wants to hold her baby, rather than just putting the baby in a cot and walking off.

Perhaps the solution would be to actively encourage new dads, or another support person to stay with the new mum and baby 24/7. 

We need to remember that traditionally a new mother was never left alone in the first few days after birth.

Unfortunately modern hospital policies and practices mean we do leave new mums on their own in single rooms in the postnatal period, right at the time when she needs the most support. 

Skin to skin

 

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