Mums and their babies need to be together to enable the best start to breastfeeding. From the moment of birth – when a baby is placed on mum’s naked chest (known as "skin-to-skin") – the mother’s powerful "mothering" hormone, prolactin, is stimulated.
- Prolactin triggers a good milk supply, even if the baby is not interested in feeding initially.
- The closeness of her baby stimulates the ‘love’ hormone, oxytocin, which helps mum fall in love with her baby.
- Oxytocin has a calming effect on both mum and baby, encouraging the release of hormones which counteract the effects of the adrenaline produced during birth.
- Even if a baby does not feed initially, his or her digestion will be stimulated by instinctive ‘rooting’ and ‘nuzzling’ behaviour against mum’s breast.
- Skin-to-skin contact at birth encourages further neuro-behavioural responses from the baby, such as crawling to the nipple, hand-to-mouth movements and massaging the breast.
- Dad can provide skin-to-skin if mum can’t – there’s no time limit and it’s not a ‘one-off’ activity. It should be unhurried and uninterrupted as far as possible. Skin-to-skin with dad reinforces father-baby bonding.
Not all babies will want to feed as soon as they are born. Don't worry - just watch for the cues that your baby is ready.