Babies love skin-to-skin contact! Your bare chest is the best place for your baby to adjust to life outside the womb. Your baby smells you, hears you, feels you and gets to know you. Skin-to-skin contact means holding your bare baby against your bare chest or tummy.
- Holding your baby skin-to-skin helps you and your baby get to know each other in the first hours after birth.
- Partners or family can hold the baby skin-to-skin after birth if the mother is not available.
- Skin-to-skin babies stay warmer, calmer and breastfeed better than babies who are swaddled or wrapped.
- Babies of all ages benefit from snuggling skin-to-skin.
Holding your baby skin-to-skin is easy. Here’s how:
- Take off your baby’s blankets and clothing. Leave a diaper on.
- Move clothing away from your chest and tummy.
- Hold your baby, facing you, against your chest and tummy.
- You can put a blanket over you and your baby.
- Enjoy the closeness and bonding with your baby.
- When you are ready to sleep, place your baby in their crib, on their back, in your room. It is important that cribs, cradles or bassinets meet current Canadian safety regulations.
Breastfeed your baby often. Most babies will feed at 8 or more times in 24 hours. Watch your baby for signs that they want to eat. These signs are called feeding cues.
Early feeding cues mean “I’m hungry”.
Mid feeding cues mean “I’m really hungry”.
Late feeding cues include crying, baby turning red and agitated body movements. Calm your baby before feeding her. Try cuddling, skin-to-skin holding, talking, singing, stroking or rocking to calm your baby. Queensland Health has pictures of feeding cues.
There are many different breastfeeding positions. Choose a position that works for you and your baby. Laid back breastfeeding (also called baby-led latching) works well when you are learning or if your baby is not breastfeeding well. Whichever position you like to use, here are some points to remember:
- Have your back well supported in a position that is comfortable.
- Your baby’s ear, shoulder and hip should be in a straight line.
- Your baby’s head should be slightly tilted back. This allows him to latch deeply and swallow easily.
- If you are sitting up, tuck your baby’s bottom in close.
Getting your baby latched deeply on the breast is important because it helps your baby get milk easily, without hurting your nipples or breasts. Here are some tips to get started:
- When your baby is showing feeding cues, bring him to your breasts.
- Support your baby’s body so his face is at the level of your breasts.
- Help baby get into a position where his nose is at the level of your nipple.
- If you are sitting up, tuck your baby’s body in – bottom and legs too.
- If you have larger breasts, cupping your breasts with your hand away from the areola may help to support your breast while latching.
- Your baby’s chin and lower lip will touch your breast first.
- Your nipple will point towards your baby’s nose while you wait for him to open his mouth wide.
- Your baby should have more of the breast below your nipple in his mouth.
- Your baby’s chin will be against your breast, his nose slightly away from the breast.
Your baby is latched well if:
- Breastfeeding feels comfortable for you.
- Your baby has a strong, slow, regular suck.
- You can hear swallowing.
- Your baby’s mouth is wide with flared lips.
- Your baby’s ears or temple are moving while he sucks.
- Your nipples have a rounded shape after feeding.
- Your baby is relaxed and content after feeding.
- Watch your baby, not the clock. Feed your baby when she is showing early feeding cues.
- Let your baby remove milk from the first breast well. Once the breast feels softer, and your baby is no longer sucking actively, offer the other breast.
- Your baby may be sleepy for the first few days. If your baby falls asleep soon after the feeding has started, use breast compressions to keep your baby sucking. You may need to wake your baby to eat in the early days. See Breastfeeding Matters by the Best Start Resource Centre for more information.
- Avoid using a pacifier, especially when learning to breastfeed. The way that a baby sucks on a pacifier is different from the way they suck at the breast. Using a pacifier may lead to sore nipples and a lower milk supply. Many breastfed babies never use a pacifier.
- Your baby is feeding 8 or more times in 24 hours.
- Your baby has slow, strong and steady sucks and is swallowing often.
- Your baby has a wet, pink mouth and bright eyes.
- Your baby has enough wet and dirty diapers for his age. For more information, see Guidelines for Nursing Mothers by the Best Start Resource Centre.
- Your baby has regained his birth weight by 10 - 14 days.
- Your baby is feeding less than 8 times in 24 hours.
- Your baby has black stools after day 4.
- Your baby has fewer than 3 stools and 6 wet diapers in 24 hours after day 4.
- Your baby is unusually sleepy, fussy or restless.
- Your nipples hurt.
- Your breasts feel hard and painful.
- You feel like you have the flu.
Always call for help if you feel breastfeeding is not going well or if something doesn’t seem right. See Getting Help and Peer Support for more information about breastfeeding support available in your community.
Learning how to express breastmilk is an important skill for all mothers. Expressing breastmilk allows you to:
- Rub some milk onto your nipples to keep them moist and prevent infections.
- Give your baby a taste of milk to make her interested in feeding if she is sleepy.
- Soften your areola to allow your baby to get latched.
- Collect and store milk to feed your baby when you cannot be with her.
You can express your milk by hand or use a breast pump. See Expressing and Storing Breastmilk by the Best Start Resource Centre for more information.
Breastfeeding and holding your baby skin-to-skin can comfort your baby during medical procedures like blood work or immunizations. For more information, see:
- The Power of a Parent’s Touch - Centre for Pediatric Pain Research
- Be Sweet to Babies - Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
- Newborn Pain Reduction - Champlain Maternal Newborn Regional Program
- Tips for Parents for a Positive Immunization Experience - Government of Ontario