How Can Your Newborn Baby Benefit From Hugging?

Natalie Preddie chats with two medical experts on the importance of skin-to-skin contact following childbirth

When their bundle of joy arrives, most moms and dads need no encouragement to hug their newborn baby. That new baby smell, combined with a mother's overwhelming love, makes for some pretty great snuggle time. But hugging isn't just enjoyable for new moms—it's incredibly important for the development of both babies and parents in the initial days following childbirth.
On July 18th, Huggies Canada launched their Hug Plan in support of #NoBabyUnHugged—a campaign that focuses on the importance of skin-to-skin for babies and mothers immediately after delivery. Researched and reported by Dr. Christine Chambers, Canadian Research Chair in Children's Pain and Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Psychology & Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, and Dr. Marsha Campbell-Yeo, certified neonatal nurse practitioner and Assistant Professor at the School of Nursing, Dalhousie University; these medical experts (and mothers) wanted to promote the scientifically proven physiological and psychological benefits of skin-to-skin in an evidence-based, relatable way and felt that this program was the way to do it. 
“We’re aware that we’ve lost the balance and importance of human touch,” said Dr. Campbell-Yeo. “We cannot forget what is basic and instinctual for mothers. Skin-to-skin makes sense and allows both mother and baby to feel happy, connected and confident. This is an important lesson that is not always available to the public.”
Benefits of Skin-To-Skin
Skin-to-skin is the practice of holding your newborn baby, wearing only a diaper, against your bare skin. It is recommended that this takes place immediately after a baby is delivered for at least an hour. This is called the ‘sensitive period’ when the endorphins and ‘love hormones’ are heightened and baby is transitioning the outside world. The proven benefits can include:
• More Stable Heart Rate
• Improved Oxygen Levels
• More Stable Body Temperature
• Improved Pain Tolerance (relieves pain by 30%)
• Improved Sleep
• Faster Weight Gain
• Healthier Brain Development
Should your baby arrive by Caesarean section, it is still possible to hold your baby horizontally across your chest with the support of your partner, a nurse or a doula. Twins can also be held on your chest, side by side.
The benefits for immediate skin-to-skin are also important for new Moms and Dads, and include:
• Greater Success With Breastfeeding
• Reduced Anxiety & Stress 
• Improved Sense of Control
• Improved Parent-Baby Relationships
• Greater Confidence as You Provide Intimate Care That Can Help Improve Your Baby’s Overall Health
According to the studies behind the Hug Plan, mother’s also reported that continued skin-to-skin contact with their baby provided less postpartum depression, a greater exchange of sleep, more regulated sleep, and babies that cry less. The best part of skin to skin is that you can never overdo it. Know that hugging your baby is only helping you both heal, understand each other and bond. 
You can read Dr. Chambers & Dr. Campbell’s white paper on ‘The Power of Touch for Babies’ here
The Hug Plan
The Hug Plan itself is an extension of a Birth Plan, which many mothers put together before their delivery date. A Birth Plan addresses the use of pain relief during labour, people allowed in the birthing area, who should cut the cord, and if blood banking will take place. Although these plans can go out the window once labour begins and unseen twists and turns guide the birthing process instead, many mothers find it comforting to have some sort of strategy in place.
The Hug Plan is an extension of this and addresses the moments directly after the baby is delivered and immediate skin-to-skin contact. The Hug Plan names alternate huggers should mother not be available highlights the types of garment to facilitate hugging, hugging through routine procedures, and more. It allows your doula, midwife or doctor to know and ensure that you are able to hug your baby in the sensitive period after birth. 
Baby Hugging Programs
Through a partnership between Huggies and Canadian Association of Pediatric Health Centre (CAPHC), this Hug Plan is being funded and facilitated in Canadian hospitals. Currently, Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney, Nova Scotia and Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario have hugging chairs and stations in neonatal intensive care units. With the support of dozens of Hugger Volunteers, this program ensures that the 300+ babies admitted to the neonatal units each year are getting the hugs that they need. 
If you are interested in volunteering as a Hugger, you can find more information here.
“We want birthing to be the best experience possible,” said Dr. Chambers. “We want to engage mothers with this research so they understand the how and the why of skin-to-skin. We want to see happy, healthy, confident babies and moms, and we think this Hug Plan is the way to do it.”
Get hugging! 

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