• 4 Lifesaving Steps to Take as Soon as Your Baby Is Born

    Talk to your doctor about making sure your birth plan will follow these steps.
    by Rachel Perez .
  • 4 Lifesaving Steps to Take as Soon as Your Baby Is Born
    IMAGE phakimata/iStock
  • We're happy that soon-to-be moms are taking control of their birthing experience. Now it's time to make informed decisions about how you want to welcome your little bundle of joy. While a birth plan is not set in stone, it can empower you -- it is your body and your child, after all.

    There are essential after-birth care steps we cannot recommend enough to make sure your newborn gets a good start at a healthy life. And the good news is it's a protocol that is already in place. The World Health Organization (WHO), together with the Department of Health (DOH), had launched the Essential Newborn Care (ENC) protocol and First Embrace or Unang Yakap program three years ago to help prevent neonatal deaths. Most hospitals in the country follow this protocol that has saved infants since 2015.

    We highly encourage you to let your doctor know you want to follow these procedures after childbirth: 

    1. Drying the baby immediately and thoroughly after birth
    Bathing the newborn too soon may hinder a baby's natural reflex to crawl to his or her mother's breast. As soon as he is born, the baby is instead dried to help stimulate his breathing, keep him warm, and prevent hypothermia. "Waiting 24 hours to bathe the baby is beneficial because the vernix, the substance coating a newborn's skin, can protect them from potentially lethal infections," pediatrician Dr. Howard L. Sobel, coordinator for the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific, told SmartParenting.com.ph via email. 

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    2. Immediate skin-to-skin contact
    When your baby comes out, he should be laid on your chest. Direct skin-to-skin contact transfers the mother's warmth and protective bacteria that helps keep the baby calm and healthy. "Direct skin-to-skin contact is recommended for no less than 90 minutes, or at least until the first breastfeeding should have been completed," clarified Dr. Sobel. Separation from the mother almost always causes the baby distress.

    3. Appropriately timed clamping and cutting of the cord
    There is no set waiting time before cutting the umbilical cord. Doctors are advised to clamp it only after the umbilical cord's pulsations have stopped, stresses Dr. Sobel. It means that the cord has stopped pumping blood to the baby, which may take 30 seconds to one to three minutes or more. Doing so helps reduce anemia and prevents brain hemorrhage for smaller babies.

    4. Initiation of exclusive breastfeeding
    When the baby shows cues such as drooling, tonguing, rooting, or biting his or her hand, the mother's breast should be offered to start breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin contact also helps facilitate the baby's first meal: his mom's milk. Breast milk ensures the newborn gets the necessary nutrients he needs to keep illnesses at bay. According to WHO, initial breastfeeding reduces the risk of death by 22 percent. 

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    For WHO, these four steps are non-negotiable. According to Dr. Sobel, there are only rare exceptions (e.g. babies with rare metabolical disorders that would need special formula) where it's okay to skip these first four essential steps. Even if a mother delivers her baby via C-section, it's still important and very possible to take these first four critical steps for you and your baby. (Read about it here).   

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    After the first four vital steps have been accomplished, only then can doctors and other health professionals perform routine tasks such as tests and vaccinations. The Unang Yakap program also promotes Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), which is essentially prolonged skin-to-skin contact, which may be done by the father or the baby's older siblings. "Aside from promoting better bonding between parent and child, KMC helps facilitate exclusive breastfeeding which, in turn, strengthens the baby’s immune system.

    Premature babies, babies born with low birth weight, babies who need a ventilator, jaundice babies receiving phototherapy will benefit from skin-to-skin contact and the other steps in the Unang Yakap campaign. "Preterm babies often have a problem called apnea of prematurity, where they stop breathing multiple times in a minute. When placed in KMC and skin to skin contact, this is reduced," Dr. Sobel added.

    ENC coaching, a hands-on, on-site, evidence-based protocol to essential newborn care, focusing on the first hours and days of life, aims to train and educate health workers about the Unang Yakap program. It has been ongoing in at least nine national, 30 regional, and 157 first-level referral hospitals all over the country.

    Discuss this with your and your baby's doctor ensures your baby gets the best care as you take your much-needed rest after giving birth.

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    Now that soon-to-be mothers are taking back control of the birthing experience, it's time to make informed decisions about how you want to welcome your little bundle of joy. While a birth plan is not set in stone, it can empower you -- it is your body and your child, after all.

    However, there are essential after-birth care steps you need follow to make sure your newborn gets a good start at a healthy life. About three-fourths of the hospitals in the country already have this protocol in place, but it's best to emphasize it your birth plan.

    The World Health Organization, together with the Department of Health (DOH), launched the Early Essential Newborn Care (EENC) protocol and Unang Yakap program three years ago to help prevent neonatal deaths. Since 2015, many infants have been saved by doing the following procedures right after birth: 

    1. Drying the baby immediately and thoroughly after birth

    Drying the baby instead of bathing him or her helps stimulate breathing, keeps the baby warm, and prevents hypothermia. "Waiting 24 hours to bathe the baby is beneficial because the vernix, the substance coating a newborn's skin, can protect them from potentially lethal infections," said XXX. Bathing the newborn too soon may also cause hypothermia, which may hinder a baby's natural reflex to crawl to his or her mother's breast. 

    2. Immediate skin-to-skin contact

    We cannot stress this enough. Aside from helping a newborn perform this natural reflex, direct skin-to-skin contact transfers the mother's warmth and protective bacteria that helps keep baby calm and healthy. "Direct skin-to-skin contact is recommended for no less than 90 minutes, or at least until the first breastfeeding should have been completed," clarified XXX. Separation from the mother can cause the baby distress. 

    3. Appropriately timed clamping and cutting of the cord

    The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends doctors and midwives to hold off clamping on all healthy newborn's umbilical cords for at least 30 to 60 seconds. But really, there is no set waiting time before cutting the umbilical cord. Doctors are advised to clamp it only after the umbilical cord's pulsations have stopped. It means that the cord has stopped pumping blood to the baby. Doing so helps reduce anemia and prevents brain hemorrhage for smaller babies. 

    4. Initiation of exclusive breastfeeding

    When the baby shows cues such as drooling, tonguing, rooting, or biting his or her hand, the mother's breast should be offered to start breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin contact also helps facilitate the baby's first meal: his or her mom's milk. Breast milk ensures the newborn gets the necessary nutrients he or she needs to keep illnesses at bay. According to WHO statistics, initial breastfeeding reduces the risk of death by 22 percent. 

    These four steps are non-negotiable. When you make your birth plan, make sure your doctor and the hospital allow this. There are rare exceptions (e.g. babies with rare metabolical disorders that would need special formula) wherein it's okay to skip these first four essential steps. Even if you deliver your baby via C-section, it's still possible to have these first four critical steps done for you and your baby. (Read about gentle C-section here).   

    Almost all babies – premature babies, babies born with low birth weight, babies being ventilated, jaundice babies receiving phototherapy – benefit from skin-to-skin contact and the other steps in the Unang Yakap campaign.  Preemie babies who breathe well benefit from their mother's warmth. "Preterm babies often have a problem called apnea of prematurity, where they stop breathing multiple times in a minute. When placed in KMC and skin to skin contact, this is reduced," XXX added.

    EENC coaching, a hands-on, on-site, evidence-based protocol to essential newborn care, focusing on the first hours and days of life, aims to train and educate health workers about the Unang Yakap program. It has been ongoing in at least nine national, 30 regional, and 157 first-level referral hospitals all over the country, and we're just a quarter way away from having all hospitals do the practice properly.
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