Is a hat that utmost essential item which must be applied to every new-born head?
No. See above!
Skin to skin contact means mom and baby in skin-to-skin contact. Without physical barriers between them. The hat seems almost an obsession in some regions. I've even seen hats used during water birth, with an attendant placing the hat as soon as the baby emerges from the water! In spite of steam visibly curling from the water's surface, the hat was provided in reaction to the fear of the baby “getting cold”!
A hat is a physical and emotional barrier between the woman and her baby. It restricts her view, it may restrict the baby's view. The hat reduces tactile sensation for both; the touch and feel of the baby's hair,the feel of the mothers arm. It reduces scent sensation. It can inhibit the natural instinct many women have of wanting to rub their baby's head, or nuzzle their ears. Many mothers instinctively stroke the back of their baby's head. With a hat on, they are stroking cloth instead. Neither of them can feel it as they should.
We use hats because we want to reduce the risk of hypothermia, but we now know the best prevention for hypothermia is skin-to-skin contact of mother and baby. Without any barriers. Not even hats!
Here is one more bit of information to help you decide about hats; a hat has almost no
effect on heat preservation.
The gauze hats ubiquitous in hospitals and birth kits, don't work: "10 infants were studied while wearing a tubegauze hat at environmental temperatures of 28.5 (+/- 0.5) degrees C. This type of hat gave no measurable thermal protection."*
The cochrane database did a review of studies on Skin-To-Skin contact and had some intriguing conclusions: "Early skin-to-skin contact (SSC) begins ideally at birth and involves placing the naked baby, covered across the back with a warm blanket, prone on the mother's bare chest <...> This time may represent a psychophysiologically "sensitive period" for programming future behavior."
Women who had early Skin-To-Skin contact with their babies showed positive effects on early breastfeeding, and longer duration of breastfeeding compared to women who experienced the usual hospital routines. They also scored higher on tests for maternal attachment. The review concludes that early skin to skin contact: "May benefit breastfeeding outcomes, early mother-infant attachment, infant crying and cardio-respiratory stability, and has no apparent short or long-term negative effects."**
* Head insulation and heat loss in the newborn. Stothers JK. Arch Dis Child. 1981 Jul;56(7):530-4.
** Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(3):CD003519.
Photo: cincinnatibirthphotography, docubirth, Calla Evans Photography, heathercookelliott, bayleerobertsonphotography, sarapanman, Melissa Cate, fermontfotografie, tamarakenyon, catherinehilcove
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