Why we love skin-to-skin

Let’s face it… there are just some things you can’t do over again, but if you could…you would! For me, that’s my story around the topic of Skin-to-Skin Mother/Baby Care (SSC).  I’ve seen many changes in Mother-Infant care in 33 years on a professional level. My values, when it comes to lactation and infant care practices today, can be boiled down to one seemingly simple but an oh-so-powerful moment: when mommy’s skin meets baby’s skin. I unabashedly I have told many patients “I can’t have my kids over again but I can tell you about skin to skin.”

Photo credit: www.mommypotamus.com

In 2012, I returned from a conference where the topic of conversation was encouraging moms to let the baby lie on her chest and watch the “magic” of the baby crawl happen. There are many names for this position, but the bottom line is that our instincts as mammals activate the baby’s reflexes and breastfeeding attachment. I noticed that not only did placing babies skin-to-skin help increase mothers’ milk supplies but it seemed to help babies recover from the process of birth.

The roots of SSC are extremely important for understanding the currently known benefits. In 1978 in Bogota, Columbia, doctors were desperate for a solution to inadequate numbers of incubators and caregivers for babies. Dr. Edgar Rey Sanabria suggested mothers have continuous SSC with their low weight babies to keep them warm and to exclusively breastfeed. Not only did the babies thrive but they were discharged early. SSC was born (some pun intended)! Doctors published their results in 1979, and coined the term “Kangaroo Mother Method”. This concept quickly caught on and it was soon introduced to countries all around the world.

Photo credit: www.mommypotamus.com

A conference in 2013 on Skin-to-Skin Mother/Baby Care further explained why SSC was so important for mother and baby. Dr. Nils Bergman had come from South Africa to lecture on the neuroscience behind skin-to-skin. After this lecture I walked away committed to heralding the benefits of SSC. In a nutshell, the mother’s chest is the perfect place for the baby to thrive. The heart rate, respirations, blood sugar level and oxygen levels will become stable. In addition to this, gestation continues outside of the womb, things like maturation of the gut for digestion occurs, all because of skin-to-skin. This made it obvious to me that skin-to-skin was more than just cuddling.

I began to think about my own children and wish I could have known these things when they were born; they would have benefitted and so would I. I wish I could do it again and see if my engorgement would not have happened. I wish I could see if my depression would have been better. Of course I’ll never know if they would have handled stress better or had better ACT scores. My questions are endless, but I can now give expectant mothers some specifics I wish I would have known regarding skin-to-skin care.

Skin-to-Skin Mother/Baby Care is a tool that can be used for many different reasons. SSC can be your first line of defense if the infant’s temperature is low. Next to breast stimulation, SSC helps to boost milk supply. Looking to calm down a fussy baby? Place them skin-to-skin!! This important tool is available to all parents and their new babies.

For more information:

Kate Melms is an MBC Clinic Nurse and Birth Assistant, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and a Craniosacral Therapist in training. 

 

 

References:

  • Bergman, Nils. (2014). The neuroscience of birth – and the case for Zero Separation. Curationis. 37. 1. 10.4102/curationis.v37i2.1440.
  • Feldman, R., Rosenthal, Z., Eidelman, A.I. (2014) Maternal-Preterm Skin-to-Skin Contact Enhances Child Physiologic Organization and Cognitive Control Across the First 10 Years of Life, In Biological Psychiatry, Volume 75, Issue 1, 2014, Pages 56-64, ISSN 0006-3223, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.08.012.
  • “Kangaroo Care.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kangaroo_care.
  • Richardson, H. (1998) Kangaroo Care: Why Does It Work? Midwifery Today, Issue 44, Winter 1998.

Nourishing the Postpartum Time

When you are a new parent, ordering takeout often feels easier than making a healthy, home-cooked meal. If you feel this way, you are certainly not alone. Madileine Grodnick, new MBC mom and holistic nutritionist, has some advice for how to help kick that takeout craving and have easy, affordable, home-cooked meals available in those first few tiresome weeks after birth.

For new moms delicious and nourishing food is essential, explains Madileine, especially to allow for physical recovery and success with breastfeeding. Taking a “whole food approach” allows for the natural incorporation of ingredients like fresh veggies and whole grains, but ingredients can vary depending on family preferences and budgets.

While there is no one-size-fits-all nutrition plan, Madileine’s curated list of freezer meals including everything from cacao energy bites to nourishing chicken soup might be a step in the right direction! Here are a few of Madileine’s tips for preparing and enjoying these foods in the postpartum time:

First, host a cooking party! Before birth (Madileine suggests to start around 36 weeks) invite friends and family over to cook together. What better way to show love and support for new families than by making sure they are well-fed in their first few weeks postpartum! Even inviting over a best friend or mother-in-law to act as a sous chef helps ease the labor of preparing food.

Second, plan ahead! If you’re planning on making bone broth, Madileine explains, make all of your stews and soups that week. Don’t add extra work for yourself by making lactation cookies and chili on the same day. Instead, make meals with similar ingredients to simplify the process.

Finally, make a plan for packaging and defrosting. Part of the benefit of preparing all of your own freezer meals, rather than buying them from the grocery store, is that you can reduce packaging and waste. Madileine suggests using mason jars (which can be found for 99 cents at a thrift store) or using old jars collected from pasta sauce. For defrosting, simply take meals out a day or two in advance and allow them to slowly defrost in the fridge.

Madileine’s favorite go-to meals? Either a buddha bowl using sprouted chickpeas, some rice, and a baked sweet potato or shepherd’s pie! See Madileine’s go-to list of freezer meals here.

For more information on Madileine’s work in holistic nutrition please visit Contented Root.

Minnesota Birth Center credits its Communications Intern Madison Wagner with the creation of this blog post. Madison is a student at Hamline University studying Women’s Studies. Her passions include equitable healthcare, sustainability, intersectional feminism, and cooking.

Breaking the Silence on Paternal PPD

Parenthood is a time of adjustment and ongoing change in identities, responsibilities, routines, and relationships. While this is often paired with feelings of excitement and happiness, it may also come with increased stress, fear, and anxiety. The experience of this transition itself, along with the well documented hormonal changes that occur in both men and women following the birth of a child and throughout the first year of life, puts new parents at risk for mood disorders, amongst them depression and anxiety, in the months to years following childbirth.


Many have heard of maternal postpartum depression (PPD). Maternal PPD is a health condition that is commonly discussed in the media, childbirth education, and throughout the entirety of maternity care. But, did you know that new fathers can experience depression in the postpartum time period as well? Shockingly, evidence suggests it occurs in rates not that dissimilar to new mothers. It is estimated that in the United States up to 1 in 4 new dads suffer from postnatal depression. Despite this, paternal postnatal depression is still not widely recognized, researched, nor understood resulting in many new fathers suffering in silence. Similar to maternal PPD, there is a significant amount of evidence suggesting that depression in men during the postnatal period is associated with numerous adverse childhood outcomes, linked to later cognitive, emotional, and developmental delays. Because of this, the sheer lack of awareness of paternal postnatal depression, and my experiences first hand with new families at Minnesota Birth Center as a student nurse intern, paternal postnatal depression became a significant interest of mine and the key topic of my scholarly work.

What are the known risk factors for paternal postnatal depression?

In addition to known risk factors for traditional depression, there are numerous risk factors directly associated with the development of paternal postnatal depression. The most widely supported of these include:

  • Lack of social and emotional support from partner
  • Partner is suffering from a postpartum mood disorder
  • Poor quality and perception of marital relationship
  • A previous history of a mental health disorder
  • Poor physical health
  • Pregnancy or birth-related distress
  • Low income and/or current unemployment status
  • Difficult infant/child temperament or behavior  

What are the signs and symptoms of paternal postnatal depression?

While many of the symptoms of paternal postnatal depression may be similar to those seen in mother’s, men also manifest unique symptoms that often go unrecognized, including:

  • Irritability
  • Anger/outbursts
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Isolating or withdrawing from relationships
  • Self-criticising
  • Impulsivity
  • Avoidance behavior
  • Risk taking behaviors, which may include turning to substance abuse or violent behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

What resources and support are available to new fathers and their families in our community?

For new dads, there are many different types of support may help to ease the transition process to fatherhood.

  • Evidence suggests that one of the most effective supports for both new moms and dads comes from their partner. Finding opportunities to engage in active discussion about mental health with your partner prior to the birth of a new baby can help to promote the couples involvement in parenting together. Sharing parenting roles with your partner may help to decrease feelings of paternal isolation from the mother-infant relationship.
  • Prenatal education programs in the community help fathers better understand their expected roles. These programs are found to be most effective when the content of the program revolves around both parents and when both parents attend together.
  • Postpartum Support International (PSI) is an organization whose mission is to promote awareness, prevention, and treatment of mental health issues related to pregnancy and postpartum. Their website, http://www.postpartum.net offers numerous resources for new or expecting parents.
    • PSI offers a “DADS Chat with an Expert” on the first Monday of every month at 7pm. This is a free call-in forum for dads facilitated by a perinatal mood disorder expert, Daniel B. Singley. To participate, simply call 1-800-944-8766, code 73163#.
    • Created by the coordinator of PSI, www.postpartumdads.org is an online forum to help dads and families by providing firsthand information and guidance. Postpartum Dads offers a private online dads support group via Facebook. If you would like to be part of the Postpartumdads Facebook group please send a request with your Facebook name to info@postpartumdads.org.
  • Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Minnesota, is a group of mental health and perinatal practitioners, service organizations, and volunteers who provide support, advocacy, awareness, and training about perinatal mental health in Minnesota. This website also offers a “find a provider” tool in which you can enter your zip code, and all mental health and perinatal providers in your area will appear. Their website can be located at http://www.ppsupportmn.org/
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota (NAMI) is an organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of child and adults with mental illness. NAMI MN, offers more than 500 free classes and over 70 support groups. Their website can be located at http://www.namihelps.org/

The most important thing to remember is if you’re a new dad with paternal postpartum depression, you’re not alone! Everyone at Minnesota Birth Center sees you and supports you!

Savanha Winkel, RN, is a Clinic Nurse and Birth Assistant at MBC. She devoted her nursing school research to the topic of paternal postpartum mental health. She’s proud to be part of the MBC team in supporting all parents in the postpartum period.

References
Anding, J. E., Röhrle, B., Grieshop, M., Schücking, B., & Christiansen, H. (2016). Couple comorbidity and correlates of postpartum depressive symptoms in mothers and fathers in the first two weeks following delivery. Journal of Affective Disorders, 190, 300-309. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2015.10.033
Bergström, M. (2013). Depressive symptoms in new first-time fathers: Associations with age, sociodemographic characteristics, and antenatal psychological well-being. Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, 40(1), 32-38. doi:10.1111/birt.12026\
Biebel, K., & Alikahn, S. (2016). Paternal postpartum depression. Journal of Parent and Family Health, 1(1), 1-4. Retrieved from http://escholarship.umassmed.edu
Don, B. P., & Mickelson, K. D. (2012). Paternal postpartum depression: The role of maternal postpartum depression, spousal support, and relationship satisfaction. Psychology: Research and Practice, 1(4), 323-334. doi:10.1037/a0029148
Goodman, J. H. (2004). Paternal postpartum depression, its relationship to maternal postpartum depression, and implications for family health. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 45(1), 26-35. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2648.2003.02857
Melrose, S. (2010). Paternal postpartum depression: How can nurses begin to help? Contemporary Nurse: A Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession, 34(2), 199-210. doi:10.5172/conu.2010.34.2.199
Paulson, J. F., & Bazemore, S. D. (2010). Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression: A meta-analysis. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 303(19), 1961-1969. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.605
Philpott, L. F. (2016). Paternal postnatal depression: How midwives can support families. British Journal of Midwifery, 24(7), 470-476. doi:10.12968/bjom.2016.24.7.470
Pinheiro, R. T., Magalhães, ,P.V.S., Horta, B. L., Pinheiro, K. A. T., da Silva, ,R.A., & Pinto, R. H. (2006). Is paternal postpartum depression associated with maternal postpartum depression? Population-based study in Brazil. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 113(3), 230-232.
Rosenthal, D., Learned, N., Liu, Y., & Weitzman, M. (2013). Characteristics of fathers with depressive symptoms. Maternal & Child Health Journal, 17(1), 119-128. doi:10.1007/s10995-012-0955-5
Roubinov, D. S., Luecken, L. J., Crnic, K. A., & Gonzales, N. A. (2014). Postpartum depression in Mexican American fathers: Demographic, cultural, and familial predictors. Journal of Affective Disorders, 152-154, 360-368. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2013.09.038