I want that beanie for my baby

By Hettie Grove – Registered nurse, advanced midwife, internationally certified childbirth educator, SACLC – SA certified lactation consultant and course developer, IBCLC

Looking at birth announcements, one of the most featured pieces of clothing these days has become the beannie…oh what a gorgeous baby in that blanket with a cute hat covering his head! It just appears that a newborn needs to have a hat to be fashionable!

In most hospitals, swaddled babies and beanies will be the baby’s uniform. In the not so distant past we wanted hats on all babies. Fortunately these days some only offer it to low birthweight and premature babies. If a baby is born by a c-section or if the baby is separated from the mother, to use a beannie is not a bad idea. Lets say if the baby can’t be with the mother a beanie is a must.

What has changed that we don’t need those hats anymore

We would advocate that most moms and babies who have a normal birth don’t need to use hats.

  • It covers up the newborn smell

A newborn’s smell is one of the most amazing smells that anyone can experience. In terms of recent findings this smell is very important and babies are biologically primed to recognise the scent of their mothers and vice versa, so please don’t use perfume on your baby’s birth-day. A hat will cover this smell from the mom and dad and we are trying to avoid that.

This smell of the newborn creates a pleasurable response in the mother’s brain. This is such an important tool in this very important part of the bonding process, but not only for bonding. When the mother enters the third stage of labour, that is after pushing the baby out before the placenta or afterbirth is birthed, the mother takes a deep sniff. If the baby has a hat on mommy smells fabric softener instead of her baby’s scent. When the baby doesn’t wear a hat, she would smell her own baby’s pleasurable scent which will trigger a rush of oxytocin, which then will cause the uterus to contract and helps the placenta to be expelled. How intricate is the wonders of birthing a baby if not disturbed. This is also one of the important reasons for skin to skin for as long as possible after birth.

  • Your baby doesn’t need a hat

Your body temperature will regulate your baby’s body temperature, another reason for skin-to-skin. By simply doing skin-to-skin, smelling your baby, your body has the ability to raise its temperature when the baby is cold in order to heat the baby, and if the baby is hot your body’s temperature lowers to cool the baby down again. Interesting if it is twins, your body can heat the one side and cool the other side depending on the various babies temperatures.

We really need to be careful that babies don’t overheat indoors as research has shown that overheating a baby may increase the risk for cot death. This also applies to hospitals as hospitals are often warmer than houses.

Studies have shown that skin-to-skin provides thermo-regulation faster than any other means.

What You should do instead

A 2010 study found that skin-to-skin contact after birth leads to better thermo-regulation, a faster third stage of labour, and also improved rates for exclusive breastfeeding at the time of hospital discharge.

Of course, it’s not possible in all cases to experience skin-to-skin. If you are separated from your baby, have a sick or premature baby or perhaps he is having a few troubles after the birth, putting clothes and a hat on, or using a warmer, would be the best option. Uninterrupted, skin-to-skin time is for well mothers and babies.

So if all is well and you are offered a hat in the hospital, explain instead that you would rather hold your baby skin-to-skin, and let your body help regulate your baby’s temperature. Your baby should be placed directly on your chest, skin-to-skin, with a warm blanket placed over the two of you to help you maintain body heat. Now, lie back, relax, and enjoy that gorgeous new baby smell whilst nature takes care of the rest.

Some birth professionals have adopted the saying: “No hatting, patting, or chatting!” immediately after the birth. This was coined by a passionate women’s and baby’s advocate, Carla Hartley. Any patting or chatting should only be done by the mother, with the father right there too. The precious moments right after birth are very important, and should be as undisturbed as possible. It’s the beginning of an attachment, a momentous and important moment that you will never, ever get back. Make it count.

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