Skin-To-Skin Contact, Rooming Together Are Important For New Moms, Babies

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A wakeup call for new moms and hospital nurseries around the country: a researcher at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas says mothers actually sleep better when the newborn stays in the room with mom -- not in the nursery.

Rooming together and skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth have numerous other benefits for mom and baby, said Jeannette Crenshaw, RN, MSN, author of a new review article in the current edition of The Journal of Perinatal Education: Advancing Normal Birth.

"We're too quick to separate mom and baby after birth," Crenshaw said. "Studies have shown moms don't get more sleep when babies are in the nursery. And when you keep them together, they get to know each other sooner, which impacts maternal caregiver skills."

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Babies who are kept with their mothers cry less, are easier to soothe, and sleep more soundly, according to Crenshaw's paper. Babies who room-in with their mother also breastfeed sooner, gain more weight, and are less likely to develop jaundice, according to the research.

"For years the thinking has been that if the baby stays in the hospital nursery at night the parents will be more rested when they get home and better able to care for their newborn," said Presbyterian pediatrician Dr. Early Denison. "But pediatricians should consider recommending that parents keep their newborns with them throughout their hospital stay to promote optimal breastfeeding and bonding with the baby."

Mothers who are with their babies for longer periods of time also have higher scores on tests that measure the strength of their attachment to their newborns.

Mothers and newborns also should have skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, according to the paper. Babies placed skin-to-skin on their mothers stay warmer, cry less, have lower levels of stress hormones and breastfeed sooner than newborns who are separated from their mothers immediately after birth, said Crenshaw, clinical education specialist for The Center for Learning at Texas Health Resources, the parent organization of Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas.

"And the baby is exposed to the normal bacteria on the mother's skin, which may protect the baby from becoming sick from harmful germs," Crenshaw added.

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