From The Very First Touch: How Skin to Skin Contact Helps Families Thrive
Somehow, it’s been a year and a half since the very first time I held my son. He was so small, so warm, and he cried after being brought forcefully into the world. We were in the operating room after a forceps delivery, and I was shocked and amazed that they just put that tiny little thing right there on my chest! I don’t think I fully understood what had just happened in the 15 minutes before that moment, but I honestly didn’t care.
He was here! He was on me, safe, and I could touch him
Those moments we had laying there together were incredible. It helped me get through the stitches and completely forget about everything else that was happening. This was my first experience of skin-to-skin (also called Kangaroo care). Skin-to-skin contact is when they put your baby directly onto your skin. There is usually nothing between you… except maybe a diaper. You may also have a blanket over you.
Skin-to-skin contact has incredible benefits for helping Mom and Baby bond
Skin-to-skin contact has incredible benefits for helping Mom and Baby bond. It is also a natural way to help them learn their new roles. There are many known benefits, and we’re discovering all the time! When we feel happy and safe, we release Oxytocin (aka the “love hormone”). It then triggers the pleasure center of the brain and helps associate good memories with what is happening at the time – like cuddling your baby!
Smelling, feeling, and holding your baby after delivery releases this hormone and helps to reduce pain, hold off exhaustion, and start to bring in your milk for breastfeeding. Immediate skin-to-skin contact is becoming more widespread but there are things, like having an emergency c-section, that can sometimes delay it. Advocating for yourself is very reasonable, and more hospitals are supporting it during birth. Therefore, request to have baby brought to you unswaddled and placed on your chest as soon as safely possible.
Mother/baby pairs with continuous skin to skin ended up breastfeeding for an average of 2 months longer than those with
Breast or chest-feeding is also supported by skin to skin in many ways. When you first give birth to your baby and they put that warm, tiny body onto your chest, your newborn’s instinct is to move around, rooting, to find their food. Your body has started to produce fragrant oils that help your baby find your nipple all on its own! A study of over 3000 new mothers¹ found that by promoting immediate skin to skin contact there was better control over newborn blood sugars, they had higher rates of breastfeeding on discharge from hospital, and the mother/baby pairs with continuous skin to skin ended up breastfeeding for an average of 2 months longer than those with
Helping your baby adjust to the outside world
Besides the many benefits of skin to skin that happen for breastfeeding, it also plays a huge role in helping your baby adjust to the outside world. The warmth of your skin helps baby to regulate their body temperature and get them used to their new world; your skin will even cool down if baby is too warm. By removing everything from between you and the newborn, and having them calmly lay on you, your body is going to naturally help them to develop an immune system, regulate their breathing, steady their heart rate, and dramatically reduce the baby’s feelings of stress they have from their new environment. All of these amazing benefits start within seconds of starting skin-to-skin contact!
Skin-to-skin contact can be a family-centered way of bonding with baby and creating lasting relationships with their parents.
There are also many benefits of Kangaroo care for partners and spouses! Skin-to-skin contact can be a family-centered way of bonding with baby and creating lasting relationships with their parents. One study 2 of Dads and newborns found that the bond between them was dramatically impacted by Dad having time skin to skin with baby. It showed that they were much more likely to want to hug, smile, and play with their baby as they grew up and felt a stronger sense of bonding sooner than those that did not do it.
Skin to Skin Allows Partners to Bond in a Different Way
Partners who spend time skin to skin with baby learn different ways of bonding. They also find their role as a parent easier if the other is breastfeeding. These feelings of closeness and bonding with a parent last a lifetime and create a connection that allows for trust and security as they learn to explore their world. Have you ever noticed a child’s first instinct when they don’t feel well? They cuddle up close and usually lay their head on someone they love and trust.
Skin-to-skin contact doesn’t stop having benefits as a baby grows up; all the benefits it provides to a newborn, also apply as they grow! If your child is sick, holding them skin-to-skin and providing them with plenty of fluids can help to reduce fever. As a result, they will recover faster than they would normally. Even as adults, we value time spent touching and feeling the closeness of our partners. Skin to skin doesn’t just benefit a baby- it’s a valuable tool for creating a bond that lasts a lifetime!