The #1 piece of advice I give to nursing parents, and it's the easiest change to make...
When I work with families, I spend a lot of time gathering information so that I can create a customized plan of care that will best help them meet their nursing goals. Certified lactation counselors are health care workers trained to assess each breastfeeding relationship fully before offering instruction, suggestions, and counseling.
Yet no matter what the nursing family is dealing with, no matter how many (or few) obstacles are in their way, I always include this in my list of recommendations to the family. It can be done by the nursing parent, or by the non-nursing parent (if there is one), or heck, by grandma or a postpartum doula-- pretty much anyone that is part of loving and caring for the baby. It's 100% free. It requires no accessories, herbs, shields, exercises, or whatchamacallits. It can be started in 60 seconds or less and will begin to make a difference almost immediately. It has been proven to enhance parental breastfeeding confidence, exclusive breastfeeding rates, and increase nursing duration. It has also been linked to lower infant crying rates and higher levels of maternal affection. It causes babies to latch better, stay calmer, better self-regulate and self-calm up to a year later. It can decrease parental anxiety and post-partum pain, and even allow the breastfeeding parent to sleep better. Have you guessed what it is yet? Skin-to-skin care. Yes, Skin-to-skin care, or kangaroo care as we NICU nurses like to call it. I can think of very few reasons that I would not advise families to do skin-to-skin with their babies. The clients I work with have reported to me that skin-to-skin contact helps to re-wire baby's brain and seemed to help restore baby's breastfeeding instincts. They tell me that doing skin-to-skin has helped their sleepy babies wake to eat, their fussy babies to calm down, and their poorly latching babies to get a better, more effective latch. It's so easy to do, too. Just undress baby down to a diaper, then lay baby chest-down on your bare chest (no bra, please). Make sure baby's head is turned to one side and that you can see baby's mouth and nose at all times. Cover baby's body with a blanket if your home is chilly. If possible, stay this way for at least an hour. That's it! Repeat daily. Or twice daily. Or heck, more. Babies benefit from skin-to-skin even with a non-nursing partner or another caring family member or close family friend, so if you need to take a shower or get out of the house, feel free to show your caregiver how to skin-to-skin your baby safely as well. And no need to stop once baby is out of the newborn stage- even older babies benefit from it. Think about it- before birth, your baby was basically doing skin-to-skin 24/7. Babies are used to this kind of close physical contact, yet we often expect them to be held wearing layers of clothing and blankets and other fussy stuff that probably confuses the heck out of them. Why do we expect that they'll come out of the womb totally ready to wear clothing and sleep alone? Even one hour of skin-to-skin care a day can really make a positive impact on your nursing relationship. It's beneficial for bottle fed babies as well, whether they're eating pumped milk from a parent or a donor or formula. Skin-to-skin is great for all babies. So don't be surprised when you come to me for lactation consulting and this tip is at the top of my list (and it is, literally, at the top of my care plan I provide to my clients).
Have you seen benefits from skin-to-skin care?