Skin-to-skin contact: multicultural perspectives on birth fluids and birth ‘dirt’


  • V. Finigan RGN, RM, IBCLC, BA (Hons), MSc, PhD, MBE,

    Consultant Midwife-Infant Feeding, Corresponding author
    1. Antenatal Clinic, Pennine Acute NHS Hospitals Trust, Royal Oldham Hospital, Oldham
    • Correspondence address: Dr Valerie Finigan, Antenatal Clinic, Pennine Acute NHS Hospitals Trust, Royal Oldham Hospital, Rochdale Road, Oldham OL1 2JH, UK; Tel: 0161-627-8420; Fax: 0161 778 5308; E-mail:

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  • T. Long SRN, RSCN, RNT, BSc (Hons), MA, PhD

    Professor of Child and Family Health
    1. School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Salford, Salford, UK
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  • The study received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
  • No conflict of interest has been declared by the authors.



To explore the experiences of women from three population groups of immediate skin-to-skin contact (SSC) with their newborn babies.


A mixed methods approach was adopted in a phenomenological study to elicit the experiences of English, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women. Audiotaped diaries, semi-structured interviews, photographs and video recordings were employed. Concept mapping was central to data analysis.


This paper reports novel findings that women contextualized and accepted secretions and bodily fluids from birth. This contradicts the beliefs of midwives that Asian women find bodily secretions abhorrent and culturally unacceptable. All participants reported positive experiences of SSC despite varying degrees of soiling from birth fluids.


The study was conducted in a single setting, and participants may not have been representative of others in their cultural groups. Third-party translation may have added an unsought layer of interpretation. The imposition of cultural expectations by peers in the recruitment process excluded some potential participants.


Stereotypical assumptions about cultural background often characterize professional responses. When this stereotyping was put aside, women of all three cultures, whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, were able to enjoy SSC with their babies.

Implications for Nursing and Health Policy

The findings suggest that changes will be needed in professional practice to be more open to women's expressed preferences, in local policy to ensure that choices are made clear and are available, and in national strategic direction to ensure widespread adoption of positive practices for opportunities to increase breastfeeding, promote parent–child bonding and support patient choice to be realized.