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  • Writer's pictureGillian Holmes

To hat or not to hat?

Can we please talk about hats on babies?!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as partial as the next person to a gorgeous little person sporting some knitted bunny ears or a crocheted pumpkin beret… but what I want to challenge is the habit of healthy new-born babies having a hat slapped on their head as soon as they emerge and are brought up onto their waiting mum’s chest - before anyone’s even muttered the word ‘placenta’.

You’d have thought that Mother Nature had made a mistake – and let’s be honest, that doesn’t often happen – so a baby who’s been kept cosy and warm inside their mum’s tum for nine months is suddenly going to freeze as soon as they’re born unless someone immediately rushes over with a hat. But did you know that a woman’s chest actually glows immediately postnatally, providing a ‘natural radiator’ for the baby? And that thing we all used to hear, that most of our body heat is lost through our heads – it’s just not true.

So to keep a new-born baby warm, the best place for them is skin to skin with the person who’s just birthed them. Instinctively you will then snuggle your baby into your warm chest and reach your head down to inhale that wonderful, unique, beautiful smell from the top of your baby’s head (sadly denied to you if your baby is wearing a hat!) - this skin to skin contact and the nuzzling, kissing, brushing the top of your baby’s head with your lips which instinctively follows is also seeding their microbiome, kick starting their immune system. Meanwhile the new mum’s body is being flooded with oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ that brings on contractions to cause the placenta to be born, and prolactin which is gearing up for breast milk production. Oh and the ‘love’ part – that’s happening too of course…

When my first baby was born, over 20 years ago, the cord was clamped and cut immediately, she was wrapped and handed to me. By the time her youngest brother arrived eight years later everyone had heard of ‘delayed cord clamping’ – now known as ‘optimal cord clamping’ – and that, along with skin to skin care is now the default unless there’s a medical necessity. Can we please make hats on newborn babies a thing of the past too… and save the cute headwear for when they are a tiny bit older?!

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