By now, the many benefits of skin-to-skin — for both newborns and their mamas — are no big secret. Skin-to-skin encourages breastfeeding, stabilizes a baby’s body temperature, helps reduce pain, and recent studies have shown that it even has lifelong benefits in terms health and intelligence. But aside from all that, after nine months long months of lugging around our precious cargo and then delivering it earth-side (which isn’t always a walk in the park, either), we all look forward to those first precious moments of bonding with our new babe. It’s literally win-win, all-round.
All of this and more is why major health organizations like the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) and The World Health Organization (WHO) now recommend that hospitals adopt a policy of one hour of skin-to-skin time for newborns. Often dubbed “The Golden Hour,” more and more hospitals across the U.S. have made this a policy over the last few years, and millions of moms and babies have reaped its rewards in those first vital minutes of life. But for those of us with more complicated births, getting a chance to participate in The Golden hour isn’t always realistic or feasible — and for moms who give birth via C-section, they often have to miss out completely.
Not to worry, though: two Canadian mamas are are apparently on the case. Hayley Mullins and Ashley Wade (who also happen to be sisters, which makes me unreasonably happy), recently developed a product to address the issues that mothers often encounter when attempting skin-to-skin. It’s called the Joeyband, and it’s basically a stretchy linen wrap designed to keep a baby safety and securely attached to its mama (or daddy!). Joeybands can be used directly after birth, and for days and even weeks afterwards. Most importantly, a mom doesn’t need to use her hands to keep her baby in place during skin-to-skin, which is a major game-changer for C-section moms who often find the practice difficult.
“Mom is medicated, and unable to use her arm because of the IV,” Mullins explains. “She is physically unable to hold the baby securely herself.”
Sometimes, if a mom is lucky, her partner can hold the baby in place for a few minutes. And while nurses do sometimes volunteer for this as well, they often have a million other responsibilities to pay attention to. The operating room is a busy place, with tons of medical personnel on board, and it’s hard to tend to everyone’s needs at once. So while C-section mothers may get to soak in some skin-to-skin time, it’s pretty rare that they get more than a few minutes in of that recommended magical hour.
Plus, there are actually liabilities to holding your baby on your own in that post-operation time. “We’ve heard horror stories of babies falling, and moms unable to hold their babies until well after the birth,” says Mullin.
In fact, Mullins shares with Babble that when her own daughter was born in 2012, she dropped her while practicing skin-to-skin — and that incident is part of what inspired her to create Joeybands.
“Two weeks after she was born, she was asleep on my chest, when I took my hands off of her,” Mullins recalls. “In a split second, she startled and fell to the floor. I tried wraps, carriers, slings and babywearing shirts, but just wanted something that would simply belt my sleeping baby to me.”
Mullins says that Joeybands for C-section moms can be set up before the birth, and used right after a mom’s baby is handed to her.
“It’s set up as part of linen prep,” says Mullins, “and when mom is on the table — either before baby is born, or after the baby is placed on her chest — the band is wrapped around her and fastened snugly.”
The Joeyband makes it possible for babies to stay directly on their mom throughout the C-section repair, and as both mom and baby are transported out of the operating room, into recovery. (I mean, how awesome does this thing sound? And no, I am not getting paid to say this!)
And it’s not just C-section moms who stand to benefit from Joeybands, either. Moms with babies in the NICU face similar roadblocks to practicing skin-to-skin, and are often looking for ways to safely hold their delicate and vulnerable babies. But as Mullins tells Babble, Joeybands are safe for NICU moms, too, and can really be used at any time in the newborn period to securely snuggle with your baby.
Sounds like something that all hospitals should have on hand, right?
Mullins says that as of now, about 100 hospitals worldwide have started using Joeybands, or are somewhere in the installation process. And while the Joeyband was first invented back in 2013, it only made its way to the U.S. in 2015, and is just now starting to catch on. In fact, Mullins says she’s seen a huge increase in Joeyband use at hospitals within the past year or so.
“The importance of skin-to-skin in the OR, coupled with the new attention to infant falls, has hospitals in search of a solution,” Mullins explains.
Hospitals can purchase Joeybands for their patients to use, but if your hospital hasn’t yet purchased a supply, you can also buy one online yourself. And if you know you’ll be having a C-section, you can speak with your doctors beforehand about setting one up for use.
Here’s hoping that news of this remarkable solution spreads to more and more hospitals worldwide, so all moms and babies have a chance to reap the benefits of skin-to-skin if they want it.