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 so loud as 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 to completely forget about everything else that was happening. This was my first experience of skin to skin (also called Kangaroo care), which is when your baby is put directly onto your skin; the key is that there is nothing between baby’s skin and yours… except maybe a diaper and maybe a blanket over top of 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 and is the natural way to help them learn their new roles. There are many known benefits, and more are being discovered all the time! Oxytocin is considered the “love hormone” and is released when we feel happy and safe; it 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 a having an emergency c-section, that can sometimes delay it. Advocating for yourself and requesting to have baby brought to you unswaddled and placed on your chest as soon as safely possible, is very reasonable and becoming widely supported in many hospital births.
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 helps your baby find your nipple all on their 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 your newborn and having them calmly laying 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 and more easily find their role as a parent 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! In the case of a sick child, holding them skin to skin and providing them with plenty of fluids can help to reduce a fever and help them to recover faster than they would without that contact. 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 is a valuable tool for creating closeness that lasts throughout your life!
These are just a few of the benefits to skin to skin contact. It’s incredible how something so
simple can play such a major role in caring for a newborn or child. Snuggle those babies close and not only will you be feeling good, but they will be benefiting in so many ways!
Er-Mei Chen, M.-L. G.-Y.-Y. (2017). Effects of Father-Neonate Skin-to-Skin Contact on Attachment: A
Randomized Controlled Trial. Nursing Research and Practice, 2017, Article ID 8612024, 8 pages.
Gabriel, M. M., Martín, I. L., Escobar, A. L., Villalba, E. F., Blanco, I. R., & Pol, P. T. (2010). Randomized
controlled trial of early skin-to-skin contact: effects on the mother and the newborn. Acta Paediatrica,
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Moore, e. a. (2016). Early skin‐to‐skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane
Library. Cochrane Systematic Review – Intervention. Version published: 25 November 2016.
Retrieved 11 10, 2019, from https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003519.pub4.