Immediate skin-to-skin contact facilitates breastfeeding. (Photo credit: Raphael Goetter)

Immediate skin-to-skin contact facilitates breastfeeding. (Photo credit: Raphael Goetter)

It is common for expecting parents to rely completely on the expertise of doctors or midwives in the birthing of their child. However, knowing the correct procedure could spell the difference between life and death of your newborn.

Unang Yakap (First Embrace) is a step-by-step guide for health workers and medical practitioners assisting in childbirth. This Essential Newborn Care Protocol was issued by the Department of Health (DOH) in 2009 under Administrative Order No. 2009-0025 to reduce the incidence of infant mortality in the Philippines.

According to a study by the DOH, the top three causes of neonatal deaths are birth asphyxia or lack of oxygen in the body, complications of prematurity and severe infection. The study also revealed that hospitals practice interventions that prevent newborns from getting the natural protection of their mothers.

It is crucial for you to know these steps prior to giving birth in order to exercise your rights and protect your new baby.

Here are the four steps of Unang Yakap:

Step 1: Immediate drying

Within 30 seconds of birth, your baby should be thoroughly dried using a clean cloth. This is to keep the baby warm and prevent hypothermia. Baby’s eyes, face, head, front, back, arms and legs should be wiped clean while the health practitioner checks on his/her breathing. Do not bathe the baby within the first six hours of life.

Step 2: Skin-to-skin contact

After drying, your baby should be placed face down on your bare belly or chest. This is a powerful moment for many moms and is the first bonding time with their babies. It is also the first step to successful breastfeeding. Some babies, especially those who were born naturally, are able to crawl towards their mothers’ breasts at this stage. Aside from keeping the baby warm, skin-to-skin contact prevents newborn sepsis and infection through colonization of the mother’s skin flora.

Step 3: Delayed clamping and cutting of cord

One to three minutes after birth, pulsations in the umbilical cord will stop. This is when clamping and cutting the cord should be done to decrease your baby’s chances of anemia. Remember, you and baby are still on skin-to-skin contact.

Step 4: Non-separation and rooming-in

Health practitioners will guide and coach you to begin breastfeeding. This is when your baby gets a first taste of your early milk, a.k.a. colostrum, which is packed with nutrients and antibodies and serves as your baby’s first immunization. If you and the baby are doing well, you should continue skin-to-skin contact without interruption.

Of course there are other newborn interventions such as administration of eye care and vitamin K but these four steps are the main ones. Implementation of the protocol also assumes that childbirth is going smoothly and that you and your baby do not need any emergency assistance. You may read the full DOH guidelines here.

Where have you heard of Unang Yakap? Did you experience these four steps when you gave birth? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Crash Course in Breastfeeding:

Step 1: 8 Breastfeeding Facts to Get You Started

Step 2: Unang Yakap: What You Deserve on Your Baby’s First Hour

Step 3: Fourth Trimester: What to Expect After Birth

Step 4: Breastfeeding Myths

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