Why is Skin-to-Skin Contact Important for Newborns: A Quick Overview



baby lying skin to skin on dads chest

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Skin-to-skin contact for newborns, often referred to as kangaroo care, is a simple yet profoundly impactful practice for both the baby and the parents. Its importance in the early days of a newborn’s life cannot be overstated.

We’ll explore how this practice helps in regulating the baby’s body temperature, heart rate, and breathing, and its role in promoting bonding and emotional security.

Understanding the significance of skin-to-skin contact will provide parents with the knowledge and confidence to practice this nurturing bond from the very beginning of their child’s life.

Key Takeaways: Importance of Skin-to-Skin Contact for Newborns

  • Promotes bonding and attachment. Skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin, enhancing emotional connection between the parent and the newborn.
  • Regulates the baby’s body temperature. A parent’s body heat helps stabilize the newborn’s temperature more effectively than an incubator.
  • Facilitates breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin contact encourages early breastfeeding by triggering instinctive feeding behaviors in the newborn.
  • Helps regulate the baby’s heart rate and breathing. This close contact can synchronize the baby’s respiratory and cardiac functions.
  • Reduces stress and crying. The physical closeness can soothe and calm the baby, reducing cortisol levels and stress.
  • Supports immune system development. Exposure to the parent’s skin flora can aid in developing the baby’s own immune system.
  • Enhances neurological development. The sensory stimulation from skin-to-skin contact supports brain development and sensory integration.
  • Improves sleep quality for the newborn. Babies often sleep more deeply and peacefully when in close physical contact with a parent.
  • Supports early cognitive development. The interaction and sensory experiences during skin-to-skin contact contribute to brain growth and cognitive development.
  • Can aid in postpartum recovery for the mother. This contact can help reduce postpartum bleeding and improve mood, aiding in the mother’s physical and emotional recovery.

Significance of Skin-to-Skin Contact

When you welcome a newborn baby into the world, one of the most important and beneficial practices is skin-to-skin contact. Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend this practice for the first hour after birth because it offers tremendous benefits for both you and your baby.

What is skin-to-skin contact?

Skin-to-skin contact, also known as “kangaroo care”, involves placing your unclothed newborn on your bare chest, usually in an upright position. Covering both you and your baby with a warm blanket, if needed, helps maintain a comfortable temperature for your baby.

The key benefits of skin-to-skin contact include:

  • Bonding: It helps strengthen the emotional connection between you and your baby, promoting attachment and trust.
  • Temperature regulation: Your body provides natural warmth, keeping your baby cozy and comfortable.
  • Breastfeeding: Skin-to-skin contact encourages breastfeeding initiation and improves milk volume, providing your baby with essential nutrients and antibodies.
  • Reduced stress: This close contact releases oxytocin, the “love hormone”, in both you and your baby, reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.

During the first hour of life, a newborn goes through nine stages of skin-to-skin contact, including relaxation, awakening, activity, and rest, leading to crawling, familiarization, suckling, and eventually sleeping. Observing your baby going through these stages will provide you with invaluable insights into their unique personality and instinctive behaviors.

Immediate Benefits of Developing a Bond

Temperature Regulation

One of the first and most essential benefits of skin-to-skin contact is temperature regulation. As a mother (or partner) holds their unclothed newborn against their bare chest, their body acts as a natural incubator. Your body warmth helps maintain the baby’s body temperature, reducing the need for additional blankets.

Health and Growth

There are several benefits to your baby’s health and growth when engaging in skin-to-skin contact. It can help stimulate digestion, increase milk supply for breastfeeding, and even improve the baby’s immune system. Studies have shown that kangaroo care can have a positive impact on premature babies and their overall health.

promoting Parents-Infant Bond

You will find that skin-to-skin contact promotes a strong parent-infant bond. This physical connection releases oxytocin, a hormone associated with relaxation, stress relief, and bonding. As a new parent, you will experience an increased feeling of love and attachment, while your baby will feel your scent, providing a sense of security.

The Stabilizing Effect

When a newborn takes part in skin-to-skin contact, their heart rate and breathing pattern become more stable. They are more likely to experience relaxation, reduced stress, and minimal crying. This connection can even help your baby adapt to life outside the womb, as observed in the Baby Friendly Initiative by UNICEF UK.

Remember that engaging in skin-to-skin contact with your newborn offers numerous immediate benefits to both you and your baby. This intimate bond will help establish a strong foundation for a healthy development process while fostering a nurturing and supportive environment from the very beginning.

Benefits for Mothers

Helping with Breastfeeding

Skin-to-skin contact is important for new moms, as it significantly helps with breastfeeding. When your baby is placed on your chest after birth, it encourages their natural instinct to latch onto your breast. This close contact allows your baby to smell and taste your milk, which can promote a better milk supply and ensure your baby gets all the essential nutrients in their first few days of life.

Furthermore, this intimate contact boosts the release of oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” Oxytocin has been found to play a significant role in the production of breast milk, ensuring a steady supply for your little one. To make the most of these benefits, it’s best to initiate skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery or as soon as it’s safe.

Stress Management

Equally important, skin-to-skin contact creates a sense of relaxation and stress relief for both you and your baby. After the taxing experience of labor, your body experiences significant changes. Holding your baby while still connected by the umbilical cord can help you relax and ease the transition into motherhood.

Additionally, skin-to-skin contact has been shown to reduce postpartum bleeding, as the release of oxytocin helps your uterus contract and get back to its pre-pregnancy size. This process lessens the risk of complications and helps you recover more quickly.

It’s also essential to recognize how vital skin-to-skin contact is for managing your emotional well-being. The surge in hormones your body experiences postpartum can sometimes cause emotional distress. By holding your baby close, you can nurture a strong bond and support your journey towards a more balanced emotional state.

So, for a smoother breastfeeding experience and better stress management, embrace the power of skin-to-skin contact with your newborn. This simple, yet meaningful practice can provide numerous benefits for both you and your little one, helping you to create a strong, loving bond from the very beginning.

Skin to Skin in Baby Carriers

  • Choose a carrier suitable for newborns. Some carriers are designed to accommodate the close, front-facing position ideal for skin-to-skin care between mother’s body and a newborn infant.
  • Ensure the carrier provides proper support. The carrier should support the baby’s back and neck while allowing direct contact with your skin and baby skin. It should ensure the baby can be held skin to skin for over 20 minutes at a time on mother’s bare chest.
  • Use a wrap or sling for more flexibility. Wraps and slings can be easily adjusted to facilitate skin-to-skin contact while ensuring the baby is secure.
  • Dress appropriately for skin-to-skin. Wear clothing that allows you to easily place your baby against your bare chest.
  • Maintain baby’s safety and airway clearance. Always ensure that your baby’s face is visible and their airways are clear when in the carrier.
  • Monitor the baby’s temperature. Skin-to-skin contact can regulate the baby’s body temperature, but it’s important to make sure they are not overheating.
  • Practice at home first. Get comfortable with positioning and securing your baby in the carrier before attempting prolonged skin-to-skin sessions.
  • Be aware of your comfort and posture. Adjust the carrier as needed to maintain your own comfort, especially during longer periods of wearing.
  • Consider a carrier with easy breastfeeding access. If you plan to breastfeed while babywearing, look for a design that facilitates easy and discreet nursing.
  • Consult with babywearing experts if needed. If you’re unsure about how to safely practice skin-to-skin in a carrier, seek advice from babywearing groups or professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions on Skin to Skin Time

What are the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for newborns?

Skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care, offers numerous benefits for both you and your newborn. It helps in decreasing stress, regulating the baby’s heart rate and breathing, and even promoting digestion. Additionally, skin-to-skin contact encourages colonization of your baby’s skin with your friendly bacteria, providing protection against infection.

How does skin-to-skin help with breastfeeding?

As the baby is placed directly on the mother’s chest, it can instinctively start to seek the breast. The close contact stimulates an interest in feeding and makes breastfeeding easier. Skin-to-skin contact also assists in regulating your baby’s body temperature, which can further increase their interest in feeding.

Can skin-to-skin contact help in bonding with my newborn?

Absolutely! Skin-to-skin contact fosters a strong bond between you and your baby. The close contact and shared warmth create an environment that promotes attachment and bonding. Studies have also shown that parents who engage in kangaroo care feel more confident and experience less anxiety.

How soon after birth should I start skin-to-skin contact?

Ideally, skin-to-skin contact should begin as soon as possible after birth. It is especially beneficial within the first hour, as it helps in calming and regulating your baby’s breathing and heart rate. However, even if you cannot begin immediately due to medical reasons, starting skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible is still helpful.

What are some recommended positions for skin-to-skin contact?

The most common position for skin-to-skin contact is with your baby lying on your chest, their head turned to one side, and their ear, face, and chest in direct contact with your skin. You can lie down or sit in a comfortable and reclined position. Ensure your baby’s airways are clear and they are breathing comfortably.

Is skin-to-skin contact still beneficial for older infants?

Yes, skin-to-skin contact remains beneficial even as your baby grows older. It continues to provide comfort, bonding, and opportunities for learning, development, and closeness. You can engage in skin-to-skin contact with your baby during feeding, after baths, or when comforting them.

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