Immediate drying, skin-to-skin contact, properly timed cord clamping, initiation of breastfeeding, and more — these are part of the Essential Newborn Care guidelines that list down recommended practices to be done immediately after a child’s birth.
If you're pregnant, it's good to know these guidelines by heart because there are unnecessary practices and interventions that used to be done in the delivery room. The Department of Health's (DOH) essential intrapartum and newborn care (EINC) or Unang Yakap initiative lists a few practices that should no longer be continued:
1. Suctioning of the baby's nose and mouth A baby is born covered in mom’s amniotic fluid. A bulb-like device had been traditionally used as a suction to remove amniotic fluid that might have gone into the baby’s nose and mouth. But, according to the DOH, this practice is no longer valid because it can “cause trauma or introduce infection.”
The baby's crying, which can be further encouraged through massaging and stroking of the skin, can help bring the liquid out. Suctions should be reserved for babies with difficulty crying or breathing, adds the DOH.
2. Placing the newborn on a cold or wet surface When a newly born baby comes into contact with a cooler surface, it promotes heat loss. Your baby needs warmth, so the second he comes out, he is placed on your chest for skin-to-skin contact. Yes, mom, you provide your baby the warmth.
Babies lose heat as much as four times faster than adults. Even a one-degree drop from body temperature can already stress the baby and cause him to use up more energy and oxygen, according to Stanford Children's Health. Continued cold-stress can lead to hypothermia.
3. Footprinting All moms have heard the horror stories of babies being switched at the hospital. Footprints of newborns were traditionally taken to use for identification. However, “this practice increases the risk of cross-contamination among babies,” the DOH states.
Footprints were also shown by studies to be insufficient in identifying the babies, the health agency adds. Instead, keeping the newborn close to the mother through skin-to-skin contact prevents the risk of switching newborns.
4. Bathing the newborn within six hours after birth Bathing risks the baby for hypothermia as well as washes away the vernix caseosa, or the thick, white, layer that coats newborn babies. This coating is shown to protect the newborn from infection with antimicrobial properties similar to amniotic fluid and breast milk. WHO recommends that bathing should be delayed until after 6 hours of life. In fact, you can wait days before you bathe your newborn for the first time.
5. Unnecessary separation of the newborn from the mother Once the baby is born, she should be dried and immediately placed on the mother's chest for skin-to-skin contact and to initiate breastfeeding. Babies who receive this Unang Yakap, “stay warm, cry less, are more likely to breastfeed and breastfeed sooner compares to babies who are separated from their mothers,” says the DOH. Weighing, taking measurements, and giving vitamins and vaccines to the newborn, can come afterward.