Starting #SkinToSkin contact – What are you waiting for ?

My latest blog is to back up an article published today in The Times about why newborns need to be held by their mothers at birth for as long as possible . The ATAIN study looks at term (a baby born after 37 weeks gestation) admissions to neonatal units and how to avoid them . 

Perhaps it’s time to rethink my strategy – I have been focusing my work on why birth workers should not move the newborn out of skin to skin . NOW I realise that we (that means ALL birth workers) must make our primary aim on STARTING and BEGINING the contact and how to educate women to keep hold of their newborns despite external pressures to move the baby . 

So what are the external pressures? 

As an experiment I have been piloting a scenario project with the pregnant women I come into contact with in my role as a midwife . 

I roll up a clean towel and ask the woman to hold it and say “this is your newborn – I want you to try and imagine yourself tired and vulnerable after a long labour and someone is trying to make you move your baby 👶 out of skin to skin contact ” Then I teach the woman that whilst she is holding her newborn – millions of  physiological things are taking place . These include 

Brain activity in the amygdala 

The newborns tongue is starting to move 

The newborns heart is changing from how it was inside the uterus to extra uterine function 

A connection which is so simple yet at the same time too complex to put into words is beginning – that connection is the most important relationship known to man – the relationship between the mother and her newborn and the newborn and her/his mother . By discussing this I am not trying to disregard the relationship between the child and father or second mother – I am repeating what we know from other mammals that motherly love at birth makes a huge impact on children’s lives and long term mental health . If a child has been taken away from its mother because of circumstance or loss and there is a record showing that SkinToSkin contact occurred imagine the positive feeling this could give ? 

Then I try to explain that we don’t know what we are doing when we forget to begin SkinToSkin contact but we could be meddling with human nature . A baby is so happy in SkinToSkin contact – yet a mother may not be – this is our challenge – to help women to understand why it matters to the newborn . 

Please question your own practice first and then you may enlighten yourself – then try some simple birth scenarios which prevent SkinToSkin from starting – use these to teach women and families – go out and spread the word at every opportunity you can find- make a difference and always think SkinToSkin ❤️

Thank you for reading 

Love , Jenny


Skin to skin and world peace 

Thank you first of all to Natalie Corden ( ‪@corden1326 ‬ on Twitter)  for mentioning world peace in a text to me this week . 

This text got me thinking – what if our behaviours all stemmed from the way we are treated as we are born and when we are held by our birth mothers ? 

Midwives can and do have a huge impact on the way women react to their newborn children . A midwife must show compassion and describe the baby positively to start the love connection and bonding process – for example I say things like “your baby has the most lovely face” and I describe the mouth , eyes, cheeks, nose and forehead depending on what I’m asked – some women don’t want me to talk and I respect their choices . That’s my job as far as I’m concerned . However not all women have been educated on the immense benefits of skin to skin contact . I have been at births where women have changed their mind about not breastfeeding because their baby showed an interest in the breast because of skin to skin contact. These women report not knowing that a baby can crawl to the breast of its birth mother and self latch – they might have been ‘told’ but they may have forgotten- that’s why we have midwives. So, if as a midwife you ask the woman how she intends to feed her baby you are getting it all wrong – it’s not about that – it’s about giving a baby a choice as much as a mum and it’s about waiting , being kind , patience , explanation and compassion . 

If as midwives we say one hour skin to skin has happened how can it be that the birth is registered and the newborn has both an NHS and hospital number within 10-20 minutes of birth ? Are we putting our focus on digital existence not mammalian needs ? I think so . 

Time to rethink the birth registration process I feel . 

So as an experiment I’d like you to question your own interruption of skin to skin for the following reasons 

  • “Time to weigh baby” is that a question ? A rhetorical question ? A command ? Asking for permission ? 
  • “You need to get to the shower” is this what animals do ? Jump in water as soon as possible after birth has happened? 
  • NEED to check baby over  
  • NEED to give baby Vitamin K 

Are the above reasons to interrupt skin to skin contact ? Are they reasons to continue it ? 

Neonate feel less pain in skin to skin , they cry more when non-family members handle them & they know their mothers and their fathers – they don’t know us . 

So the next time you are with a woman and her newborn , is like you to question your own practice . Are you doing it the way you’ve always done it – or are you aware you need to change , be slower , be more patient – and perhaps give that baby a chance of just one breastfeed that might go onto be another breastfeed and another ? 
World peace and world health – just imagine ? 

Thank you for reading.  

With love, 

Jenny ❤️

Birth, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, New parents, Newborn, NHS, Night shifts in the NHS, Obstetrics, Patient care, Postnatal care, Psychology, Student Midwives, Women's health

How to keep your ‘Midwifery Passion’

Ideas to help midwives through NIGHT SHIFTS the past couple of weeks I’ve been on night shifts – hence my temporary disappearance from Twitter . I have been forced to practice self-care and be mindful of my own health and wellbeing in order to not only survive night shifts but also to ensure the women in my care were kept safe. A huge part of my role  is to support women and families and also to be a team player by helping and listening to my colleagues of all disciplines. Factor into this the additional pressure like teaching my body to sleep in the day and stay up all night – all this has an adverse effect on causes on my hormones and body  physiology – so it must be the same for any midwife working the night shift.

 I try my best to visit women who may still be on the postnatal ward (ones that I have cared for in labour or met antenatally) to offer a debriefing session and go through parts of the birth they may have forgotten- I find this helps me as much as it helps them . Women become tired during long nights of labour and may forget their own strength during labour and birth so I like to remind them. As midwives we must make a firm relationship foundation with the woman and her birth partner(s) and we must also display  love for our job and show it’s something we do because we enjoy it not because we have to – when did you last show that you love your job?  Women want to know that you care about them and getting food and drink in the middle of the night is a real challenge but I take it firmly onboard . I scour the fridges for left over unopened  in date sandwiches- dash to the vending machine to buy a packet of fruit pastilles or a small bar of chocolate , offer my pre-packed fruit salad, make toast and encourage food in labour – women use on average 150 kcal an hour in labour and it’s important to explain why you are encouraging eating .  Women don’t want to face a labour with a midwife who hasn’t slept or who is complaining about being at work . My philosophy the past two weeks has been to

  • Get some sunlight every day before bed
  • Eat a meal before work that will sustain me through the night – a balance of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables
  • Laugh with colleagues – I am quite well known ay work for my gangnam style dance so one night I was on the postnatal ward I danced in the office – the future midwives face was picture !!
  • Understand why I may have bouts of moodiness
  • Speak to a friend every other day
  • Walk my dog pre-bed and pre-work to ensure I am getting exercise and fresh air
  • Reduce my screen time – that includes Google and Twitter – I am on screen time at work with the maternity system online and screen time can affect our circadian rhythm.

Don’t underestimate how hard it is for me to get in from work and drive to the beach – I struggle, but I have noticed a definite change in myself during these nights and I am sure its because I have exercised prior to sleeping . I have also used some aromatherapy and mindfulness (which I do every single day – nights or days )

I prepared my fridge – chicken , vegetables , pre-packed fruit portions , cheese for protein in the night , and faced my dislike of drinking water . I googled jet-lag and circadian rhythm to help me face up to how my body might react and went in for the positive approach . I took the decision to walk on the beach with my Labrador puppy Buddie post each shift and eat my favourite breakfast sat outside my favourite cafe before I went to sleep. These positive  activities helped me to switch off from my shift , gave me a sense of wellbeing and also helped me to interact with others before I became a hermit for the day . Once home in bed, all curtains were closed and all lights switched off – as a visual hint to ‘popper inners’ those friends of mine who I adore as they pop in to visit me unannounced and I do love that but not on night shifts. I also prayed that my neighbours would be quiet and that their dog wouldn’t bark too much – it worked !!

Night shifts are special for midwives , the hustle and bustle of the hospital is turned down , the ward round is vanquished, the tea trolley is ever present and I can drink tea in the birth room with the families .

After night shifts it’s ok to feel tired and nap in the day – listen to your body carefully . Take time to recover post nights – don’t push your body beyond its limits thinking you are doing it a favour – you aren’t !

I’d like to dedicate this blog to all the midwives who work night shifts – and especially Olivia and Jude as they often discuss the effects of nights with me –  thank you to all NHS nightworkers  for all you do .

Further reading and resources 

information on The BODY CLOCK 

What is sleep drive ? Sleep drive and your body clock

Try a few of my ideas and see if they help your night shifts – I hope they do .

With kindness & midwifery love ❤️

Your friend Jenny