Mom of ‘surprise’ twins takes skin-to-skin time seriously in the intensive care nursery.

Plus, more signs of the benefits of skin-to-skin for baby’s maturation

Vanessa Applegate was not expecting twins. The very day she discovered her one baby was in fact, one of two growing in utero, she was admitted into the Johnson Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Services at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. That was April 22, when Applegate was 24 weeks pregnant. She was in preterm labor, at risk for diabetes and one of the twins was in a breech posture.

Four weeks later, on May 18, Applegate’s water broke and 65 minutes later, her boys arrived by emergency C-section. John Paul was born first and Benjamin came one minute later. The babies were whisked to the NICU and intubated as soon as they were born; their parents could not hold them for the first couple of days. After eight days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the babies were moved to the hospital’s Intermediate Care Nursery (PICN). She has pretty much lived at the hospital since, but is expected that both babies will be home by early August. As mom recovered from her C-section, the care team in the PICN helped her implement skin-to-skin care, the practice of holding babies next to mom’s body to promote bonding.

“It’s essential for my babies,” Applegate said. “We’ve noticed improvements in their feeding and responsiveness with the increased contact.”

“Skin-to-skin is regarded worldwide as the best way to keep babies warm,” said Vinod Bhutani, MD, professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a neonatologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. “Research shows it has physiologic, emotional, psychological and developmental benefits.”

The bottom line is, the ability to hold baby is crucial to the ultimate wellbeing of the baby. For well babies, experts recommend 16+ hours of skin-to-skin care daily in the first weeks following birth.

“Our team encourages any moment that mom and baby can experience skin-to-skin,” Bhutani said. “Even a few moments of holding are helpful for the baby. Every hour matters, and in our intensive care nurseries, the time spent skin-to-skin is logged by the nurses for tracking.”

Bhutani is pursuing an innovative global health and development research project exploring whether skin-to-skin can promote “an awakening” of certain brain hormones in babies, possibly improving neurologic maturation. He and his colleagues recently received a grant for that project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Skin-to-skin plays important roles in babies remaining warmer, growing better, and being likely to breastfeed and reach developmental milestones faster, according to recent scientific publications. Bhutani points out that at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, the developmental specialists and lactation consultants find that the more skin-to-skin a baby experiences, the better they progress in breastfeeding.

New mom, Applegate also sees the skin-to-skin time as an opportunity to reconnect her boys with one another. As there is no co-bedding of twins in the intensive care nurseries.

“I am the bridge for them to be close, how they were in the womb,” Applegate said.

“It’s important that they have that contact.”

“This is probably reassuring to the babies,” Bhutani said, “they are used to how their bodies interacted in utero.” Applegate is a skin-to-skin all-star, clocking upwards of 14 hours a day with both John Paul and Benjamin. Her husband, Chris is there supporting as well, and as the babies approach their original due date of August 6, their prognosis is great. Soon, the Applegate’s will be headed home, and they’re thankful they had the ability to spend this time with their babies and for what has been their “surprise of the decade.”

Discover more about the Johnson Center or call (650) 498-2229.


2 Responses to “Mom of ‘surprise’ twins takes skin-to-skin time seriously in the intensive care nursery.”

  1. Carol

    My daughter gave birth to her daughter weighing 2.3 lbs in January.
    Because of Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital we are very thankful.

  2. Martha Applegate

    I am the proud Grandmother of these surprise twins, my first grandchildren. At 2.5 lbs each your professional caring staff and the determination by Vanessa and Chris to see these babies thrive has been an amazing journey. They have been so well documented over social media that a community of love and support outside the hospital as well
    has been rallying around them each day seeing them grow and getting stronger . The first day Vanessa put one of them on her chest he was so tiny it was a bit shocking but day by day it’s benefits were becoming apparent even with little setbacks. When Vanessa told me you were going to document them for your study I knew she would be perfect and Chris has been wonderfully engaged and focused throughout . They will all be at home finally in a matter of hours. I am so happy and can’t ever thank everyone enough for the great job you do there making a difference for families and the community.


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