Today while taking a bath with Birdie, a great song, “Little Bit of Feel Good” by Jamie Lidell, played through the portable speaker set The Cubs Fan gave to me for Christmas. And as I was singing the chorus,
Little bit of feel good goes a long way
I need your touch to get me through my day
Watching you sleeping I pray
Please don’t make my feel good go away
I started to think of how important our daily bath-time ritual truly is to me and to Birdie’s development.
Before our sweet daughter was born, the lactation consultant and our family practice physician gently urged us to practice skin-on-skin feedings and calming techniques right after our baby was born. Specifically, they said to have immediate skin-on-skin contact after birth and to breastfeed within the first hour. Their suggestions were based on the data gathered from multiple studies, including one given by the Cochrane Collaboration in which the study found, “Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby at birth reduces crying, improves mother-baby interaction, keeps the baby warmer, and helps women breastfeed successfully.”
I took their encouragement and gentle education to heart and urged the nurse to place my daughter directly on my bare breast after she was born so that I could feed her. That first feeding was such beautiful bliss.
Once we left the hospital, the skin-to-skin contact didn’t stop. I would feed her without a shirt on and she in just a diaper. It was so soothing that we would both fall asleep in the rocking chair or on the couch or wherever we were nursing at the time. As each week passed, the weather turned cooler and made it necessary to remain dressed at all times. Scrambling to find a way to have my “daily skin”, my mother-in-law suggested that I bathe with her. Admittedly, the first attempts were somewhat awkward because she didn’t have head support and I was so nervous about slipping in the bath. But then the experience turned into one of my favorite times of the day.
From the time that Birdie was about 2 months old up until now, she’s been enthusiastic in showing her appreciation of bath time. While we’re waiting for the water to heat up, she kicks around on a towel and giggles at the giant bun of hair bobbing on the top of my head. Then when the water is just right, we slip into the water and give ourselves a few minutes to bask in the warmth than envelops us.
With the support of my hand underneath her neck, Birdie floats for a few minutes and stares up into my eyes while I sing with the radio and bend down to kiss her nose every few verses. Then she gets a good sudsing with Burt’s Bee’s baby wash, and with a quick rinse, the best part is next. I lean back and we nurse.
I don’t do this during every bath because she’s not always hungry enough to cuddle up and nurse without getting distracted. But those times that I can truly have that skin-to-skin nursing session are so special. As she’s beginning to finish, I unstop the tub and the water drains out slowly so that by the time she’s completely done nursing, we’re warm and dry. A quick slathering of Burt’s Bees baby lotion ends the bath, and together we step out into the world to conquer the rest of the day as freshly clean, new beings.
Studies have found that skin contact is not only beneficial to babies, but also to mothers. Moms who practice skin-to-skin cuddling tend to breastfeed much longer, are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression, and develop a much closer bond to their babies than those moms who don’t. Mothers can better recognize their babies’ cues and satisfy their needs more efficiently.
As Jamie Lidell sings, “I need your touch to get me through my day.” And when it comes to Birdie, I definitely do.