FROM LEFT: Kristian Herrera with one-day old daughter Camila and April Hale RN, BSN at Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District
BRAWLEY — Medical evidence dating back 40 years suggests that skin-to-skin contact with a parent does more than make a baby smile, it will help transition a baby from fetal to newborn life.
Skin-to-skin also known as Kangaroo Care is the process of having the baby’s bare breast in contact with the mother’s breast immediately after birth, referred to as the Golden Hour and repeated once a day for at least 12 weeks, noted April Hale, Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District RN BSN.
While it is most commonly encouraged for mothers, it’s also encouraged for fathers.
At 10:17 p.m. Thursday, Luz Marina Vasquez gave birth to a daughter weighing seven pounds and three ounces — she named Camila — at PMHD’s Phyllis Dillard Family Medical Center.
Camila was born with a full head of delicately fine hair.
“It was a natural birth, very easy,” recalled Vasquez. “The nurses put her on me right after birth and I held her to my chest. When she was first born she was crying but now she’s been calm all day (Friday).”
“Skin-to-skin results in less crying, lowers the heart rate, provides more stable glucose control (less spiking or lowering) and provide greater respiratory and temperature control,” said Hale.
The close contact helps newborns adjust to being outside the womb. But it is as nearly beneficial if fathers keep the bare chest contact as well, noted Hale. However, the one advantage mothers have is temperature control. Fathers can tend to overheat babies and they will stretch out an arm to cool themselves down.
“We want to promote it with fathers if they want to feel the closeness that their wives share with the baby,” said Hale. “We don’t want it to be just bonding between moms and babies but mother-father-baby bonding.”
For Camila’s father, Kristian Herrera, who is employed as a UPS package driver, it was his first biological child.
“I’ve waited 36 years for this,” he said. “I didn’t think I wanted any kids until I met Luz. She changed my mind. I was a bachelor at my brother’s house-traveling everywhere.”
The skin-to-skin phenomenon was devised in 1979 when neonatologists Edgar Rey and Hector Martinez, in Bogota, Columbia, found they lacked sufficient incubators to care for numerous premature babies. To keep them warm they put tiny babies on their mother’s chest and wrapped them in cloth carriers to stay warm. As a result, babies thrived.
Increased bonding will benefit the baby in a variety of ways, remarked Hale.
“They form an immediate attachment with their mother,” she said. “But once outside the womb it’s an unsettling environment. So skin-to-skin gives baby a sense of security.”
According to research by Nils Bergman, a South African physician, a newborn’s brain development depends on positive sensory stimulation. Just after birth, sensations telling a baby “I am safe” are the mother’s smell, her movements and skin-to-to-skin contact. If the brain does not get those sensations, it will conclude “I am not safe.”
Therefore skin-to-skin is a way to have a better transition from womb to the outside world where it will take many years for a baby to become independent, noted Hale.
Meanwhile, skin-to-skin contact stimulate two things to happen: the baby moves to the breast to feed and the baby will open its eyes and gaze at its mother. The first step furthers the baby’s physical development and the second, fosters emotional and social development. The mother’s body is the baby’s natural habitat.
Herrera and Vasquez already prepared two rooms for Camila, one at Luz’s parent’s residence and one at their own home.
“I painted, and later, washed carpets,” said Herrera. “I’ve never experienced a baby shower. I thought ‘all these people buy this stuff?’ … wow. It was amazing.”
As long as the baby is in good health, skin-to-skin produces less stress, noted Hale.
“Parents have such an integral part in the baby’s environment. But we always make sure it includes the father. You’ve wanted all this time to have a baby, so where should the baby be?”
Staff Writer William Roller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-337-3452.