Face to face with your baby immediately after birth! Most babies will be awake and alert for a while. This is a beautiful moment for a first meeting outside the womb, in the real world.
Face to face with your baby immediately after birth! Most babies will be awake and alert for a while. This is a beautiful moment for a first meeting outside the womb, in the real world. The baby 'knows' where she* belongs. She recognizes your voice and that of your partner. These were the voices that she heard most often during your pregnancy. They sound a bit different outside the womb but her recognition of the rhythm and intonation of the voices is infallible. It is wonderful for her to be held and cuddled by you and your partner. After all, she has arrived safely and performed very well! She will love the close skin to skin contact with you or your partner. Immediately after the delivery is an important moment to lay your bare baby on your naked breast. Usually she will find your breast herself within not more than 1,5 hours.
Even when you are not going to breastfeed, it will be good for your baby to establish skin to skin contact with you. It will allow her to reach the desired body temperature, to restore her body sugars and to break down stress hormones more quickly than without that physical contact. If you hold your baby and stroke her gently, she will feel comfortable in the new situation.
What can your baby do right away?
The first thing the midwife or gynaecologist will look at, is the baby's reflexes. Reflexes are those movements that we humans make instinctively. We are not in control. Some reflexes will persist throughout our lives, others will disappear as soon as the baby is able to direct her own movements.
The rooting reflex will be visible when the baby is hungry. Her mouth will start looking actively for the place where she knows she can expect food. If you brush your nipple across her lips, she will open her mouth wide and stick out her tongue a little;
The sucking and swallowing reflex allow the baby to drink from the breast or the bottle and then to swallow the milk;
The babies grabbing reflex helps her to hold on to your finger tightly when you touch the inside of her hand;
If you hold the baby upright, with your arms under her shoulders and with her feet resting on the ground, you will notice the walking reflex. Her legs will start to make walking motions. This reflex will disappear when she is around 6 weeks old.
Talking, cuddling and eye contact
All children, especially newborn babies, just love being touched, caressed, held and cuddled. Not only do they love it, they need it too. Contact (by touch, by looking and by speech) is just as important as good nutrition and care. It will make a baby feel safe and loved. She needs that feeling of love and care to grow and develop. Contact will help her not only to get to know her parents: she will also discover her own body. For instance, when you caress or rub her legs or feet, she will feel your touch in that part of her body. That will help her become aware of her body and all its parts. She does not only notice that you are there for her, but she also gets to know herself.
A 'good talk' with your baby
It will be a while before your baby can communicate with words. That does not mean that communication is impossible. On the contrary! Your baby reacts to your voice, your smell, the rhythm of your breathing and the way you touch her. She herself also 'says' a lot. For instance with the look on her face and her body language. It can be tense, or limp, but also firm and relaxed. Even her arms and legs may tell you how she feels: is she moving in a calm and concentrated way, does she strain her legs, or is she stamping her feet wildly?
You will notice the different sounds of crying very soon: is she hungry, is she tired and fighting against going to sleep, or does she feel lonely and wants to be held. If you pay attention, you will learn to react to the different signals that your baby uses to express her needs. That is incredibly important, for now and for the rest of her life. In the first days of her life, your child makes an important step towards confidence, in herself ('I can let them know what I need') and in her parents ('they understand me and will take care of me').
Just look at this: your baby listens when you talk to her and she also looks you in the eye; all her attention is focused on you! Talk to her a lot. For example, you can tell her what you are doing. No matter how small she is, it is always good to talk to your baby a lot. You are bonding with her and promoting her development.
*the use of the word “her” also refers to “him” in this blog. This choice is made for readability.