Background: Little is known about the development and control of skin temperature in human mothers after birth. The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of delivery ward practices and early suckling on maternal axillar and breast temperatures during the first 2 hours postpartum and to relate them to the infant's foot and axillar temperatures.
Methods: Three groups of 176 mother-infant pairs were randomized as follows--group I: infants lying prone in skin-to-skin contact on their mother's chest, named the "skin-to-skin group" (n = 44), group II: infants who were dressed and lying prone on their mother's chest, named the "mother's arms group" (n = 44), and group III: infants who were dressed and kept in the nursery, named the "nursery group" (n = 88). Maternal axillar and breast temperatures and infants' axillar and foot temperatures were measured at 15-minute intervals from 30 to 120 minutes after birth. Episodes of early suckling were noted.
Results: The axillar and breast temperatures rose significantly in all mothers. The rise of temperature over time was significantly higher in multiparas than in primiparas but was influenced only slightly by group assignment. The variation in breast temperature was highest in mothers in the skin-to-skin group and lowest in mothers in the nursery group. In the mother's arms group, variation in breast temperature was larger in those mothers exposed to early suckling than in those not exposed. A positive relationship was found between the maternal axillar temperature and the infant foot and axillar temperature 90 minutes after the start of the experiment (120 min after birth) in the skin-to-skin and mother's arms groups. The rise in temperature in the infant's foot was nearly twice that in the axilla. No such relationship was established in the nursery group. In addition, foot temperature in infants from the skin-to-skin group was nearly 2 degrees C higher than that in infants from the mother's arms group.
Conclusions: Maternal temperature rose after birth, and the rise was higher in multiparas than in primiparas. Skin-to-skin contact and early suckling increased temperature variation. Maternal temperature was related to infant foot and axillar temperatures.