The Royal College of Midwives has called on maternity wards to ‘make every possible effort for all babies to have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers within one hour of birth’.
The call comes after new figures show more than 1,000 mothers at the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust missed out on skin-to-skin bonding with their newborn babies.
Experts say immediate skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby has ‘lasting benefits’ for both, including protecting babies from infection and encouraging them to breastfeed.
The first breastfeed is particularly important for babies because it contains colostrum, nicknamed ‘liquid gold’.
But 1,425 mothers who had their babies at the trust last year missed out on this important bonding time.
Fran Bailey, a breastfeeding counsellor at parents’ charity the National Childbirth Trust, said: “Colostrum is like breast milk, but much thicker and creamier.
“We call it ‘baby’s first immunisation’, because it’s rammed full of antibodies.
“There’s only around 5ml of it, a tiny amount, but it’s really good for helping to protect babies’ tummies.”
At Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals Trust, 61 per cent of babies had maternal or donor breast milk for their first feed, lower than the national average of 74 per cent.
Data on the baby’s first feed was recorded for 4,805 newborns, including pre-term babies.
In total, 4,860 babies were born at the trust last year.
Jane Scattergood, midwifery advisor at Public Health England, said: “Skin-to-skin contact directly after birth has lasting benefits for both mother and baby.
“It also supports breastfeeding, which helps give babies the best nutritional start in life.
“We know some mothers may need support and encouragement to help them start and continue with breastfeeding.
“That’s why we provide trusted advice to parents through our Start4Life campaign resources, and to midwives and health visitors through professional guidance.”