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http://www.kidspot.com.au/baby/real-life/in-the-news/newborn-death-blamed-on-fad

 

The West Australian newspaper has called skin-to-skin contact for mothers and newborns a fad, and the head of the AMA of WA, Dr Michael Gannon, has described it as an “obsession”. These comments followed the tragic death of a newborn baby at Fiona Stanley Hospital last month, a death being investigated by the Coroner.

Commenting on the incident, Dr Gannon made a link between early neonatal deaths in Perth hospitals with mothers falling asleep while holding their babies and accidentally rolling onto them.

In his interview, Dr Gannon told the West Australian that he believed the “obsession” stemmed from taking measures that might lead to small increases in the number of women who breastfeed, adding that “Babies, instead of being in a safe environment like a warming crib, are being left on their mother’s chest.”

Why is skin-to-skin contact used?

Skin-to-skin contact between mothers and their babies immediately after birth has been shown in numerous studies to produce a whole range of positive effects, not just for breastfeeding. Those infants that are held, unwrapped and skin-to-skin with their mothers during the first hours following their birth were more likely to latch on easily and well, maintain their body temperature, maintain a normal respiratory rate and blood pressure, have a higher blood sugar and be less likely to cry. One study found double the breastfeeding duration associated with only 15 minutes of skin-to-skin holding immediately after birth.

Co-sleeping the culprit

While skin-to-skin contact is recommended during the first hour or two following a baby’s birth, experts say that this should be closely supervised and that babies should not co-sleep with their mothers, though they should sleep in the same room. The avoidance of co-sleeping is especially important during the early post-natal period, when women can often be especially exhausted following a long labour, or effected by drugs or anaesthesia.

Once mothers take their babies home from hospital, safe-sleeping guidelines stipulate that mothers continue to avoid co-sleeping with their babies. However, one Australian study found that 80 percent of babies spent some time co-sleeping in the first six months of life, and a study by researchers in the US in 2004 found that breastfeeding mothers who slept with their babies obtained more sleep. As a result of this study the researchers recommended that methods or devices to allow breastfeeding mothers and newborns to sleep next to each other safely be developed.

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