Of the several important factors that inspired me to give birth at home, newborn care was right at the top of my list.
When I imagined giving birth at a hospital, I didn’t think of laying in a hospital bed. I didn’t think of nurses coming in and out of the room, what midwife would be on call or the bright florescent lighting overhead.
I thought about the moment of my child’s birth. I visualized it. And I didn’t like what I imagined.
A stranger’s hands holding my baby, quickly wiping her body with rough hospital towels, suctioning out her nose and mouth, all the while her arms flailing, reaching for me – for my warmth; my familiar body.
Birthing at home extinguished this fear.
I was calmed with the idea of newborn care at home.
Since I would discuss newborn care with my midwife in advance, she would know that I’d prefer my baby to be placed on my chest immediately after birth.
She would let the blood from my placenta continue to pulse through the cord into my baby until it was done before clamping and cutting the cord.
And she wouldn’t try to take away my baby. Or invade our space to suction her if not necessary.
My midwife, as we discussed and I envisioned, would sit back in awe of birth and respect our sacred bonding time together in the magical hour after birth. She’d clean up and begin to prepare for my placenta to come, record her stats, get out the measuring tape, the scale, and reminisce the birth with me.
I knew my idea of newborn care would be more directly aligned with her routine practice, which put me at ease. Rather than asking for her to allow the cord to finish pulsing, she would automatically follow suite.
Exceptional Newborn Care at Home
What makes newborn care at home so outstanding?
The midwifery model of care is built upon evidence based practices relating to the health and emotional well being of mom and baby.
Listed below are the specific aspects of newborn care that are commonly practiced at a home birth.
Immediate skin-to-skin contact.
My midwife and I shared the belief that a newborn should have immediate skin-to-skin contact with mom for at least the first hour of life for the purposes of bonding, regulating newborn’s heart rate and temperature, and the most natural way to initiate breastfeeding.
Studies show newborn’s stress levels double when placed alone immediately after birth.
And listen to this amazing health fact: when an infant suckles at mother’s breast, there are 19 gastrointestinal hormones released, stimulating growth and nutrient absorption.
A mother releases large quantities of oxytocin when immediately placed skin-to-skin with baby, increasing bonding and contracting the uterine muscles which prevents bleeding. I loved feeling the rush of that love-hormone!
During this time, a home birth midwife checks the vitals of both mom and baby.
Delayed cord clamping.
First of all, allowing blood to continue pumping from the placenta into baby does no harm to mom or baby. So why interrupt it? Not only does it do no harm, the blood in the umbilical cord is full of amazing T-cells, which have cancer fighting properties (this is why cord blood banking has become so popular).
Umbilical blood is designed to enter the child at birth. Look at the situation the way nature intended, before the use of modern medicine/instruments: blood would continue pulsating through the cord before the cord could be cut, perhaps even to the extend of drying first in order to be cut (think ancient civilizations – they could have chewed, sawed with rough stones or even burnt the cord to separate it from mother and child).
Your midwife can leave the cord to continue pulsing until it finishes, and in the meantime, clean, help mom birth the placenta, facilitate/encourage breastfeeding, and record stats of the birth.
It is common procedure for newborns to be washed with soap when born in hospitals. This is not medically necessary for the new baby, but protocol usually requires that newborns are washed before touched by hospital staff or the staff must keep gloves on at all times.
Since baby doesn’t need to be washed, it doesn’t normally happen at a home birth. Maybe spot-cleaned, say if there is some meconium, (baby’s first bowl movement) on the baby. Otherwise, vernix, (a waxy coating that helps facilitate baby through the birth canal) is moisturizing and can be rubbed in the skin. Your baby is not dirty.
Weighing & measuring.
When it comes time to weigh and measure baby, (again, approximately an hour after birth) these things can be done an arms length away from mom. Baby does not need to be taken across the room to a scale underneath a heat lamp.
Other medical procedures may include but are not limited to: eye ointment, vitamin k and a newborn screening test. Discuss with your midwife which of these she can perform, and when a third party is needed.
Midwife stays for 4-6 hours after the birth and returns approximately 24 after that.
Midwives leave the home after mom has gotten cleaned up, fed and the family is ready to take over from there for the day. She will return the following day, approximately 24 hours after the birth.
During that visit, she will check over the baby again, take baby’s temperature, your blood pressure, and ask questions about how you’re feeling – if you are able to get enough rest and have support. She will document everything on your chart and schedule another meeting anywhere from 4-7 days from that time (or as needed).
I received the exact kind of newborn care that I desired after both of my home births.
My babies were placed on my chest, warmed between my skin and blankets, snug under their newborn hats. The cord continued to pulse until it finished, and neither of my babies were poked or prodded. After the first few initial cries, they were quiet and content through the process of weighing, measurement and footprints on their home birth certificates.
I am so grateful for the way newborns are cared for after a home birth.
It is not just the exact moment of birth that matters so much, (to both mom and baby) but also those first moments and hours that makes for a peaceful introduction into this world from the womb.
Do you find newborn care at home to be exceptional? Fill in the blank in the comments below, “I think newborn care at home is exceptional because ___________.”