WHAT IS BABY SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT?
- Here’s one way to describe skin to skin with your newborn. During pregnancy, baby is in extremely close contact with the mother. Like, in the womb close contact.
- Everything the baby needs is right there. Warmth, food, oxygen, protection. Everything.
- Then, labor happens. No more womb. Baby is out in the cold cruel world. The jungle. A rude awakening. Maybe that’s why your baby is screaming bloody murder.
- When mom holds her naked baby against her skin (skin to skin contact), the warmth of the the womb is simulated. It’s like bridging the gap between the womb and the world.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT WITH YOUR NEWBORN BABY?
There surely are many wonderful benefits of baby skin to skin contact. And these benefits are not just for premature babies (sometimes referred to as Kangaroo Care). They are equally fabulous for full-term babies as well.
Lets have a look at the benefits.
IMPROVES FUNCTION OF HEART AND LUNGS
Can you imagine what it’s like for a newborn baby to take their very first breaths outside of the womb? I have to actually breathe? What’s that about?
It must be one dramatic awakening for your baby to breathe for the first time. There is plenty of evidence showing that holding your baby skin-to-skin helps your baby adapt to this whole breathing thing far more quickly.
The same benefit of skin-to-skin contact applies to baby’s heart rate. Newborns clearly will have a faster heartbeat than mom. Holding your baby close will result in a more rhythmic and stable pulse.
Keep in mind that baby’s heart rate will not be identical to mom’s. But your heartbeats will tend to resemble a closer pattern.
STABILIZES BODY TEMPERATURE
“After birth, babies have yet to acquire that same ability, so they can’t adjust their own body temperature. In fact, when it comes to keeping a vulnerable newborn warm, a mother’s body is better than an artificial warmer.”
It’s a far different story when birth occurs. Babies’ bodies have not yet learned to adjust their own temperature. It’s very common for hospitals to use some sort of artificial warmer to help regulate body temperature.
But skin-to-skin care works better than artificial warmers. Hey Dads, you can get in on this skin-to-skin thing too. Your body temp will help regulate your baby’s temperature.
Here is another big plus. I was amazed to learn that the temperature of the mother’s breasts naturally rise and fall to help keep baby at the best body temperature. If baby’s temp starts to fall, mom’s breasts will increase in temperature to compensate. And vice versa. Very cool.
A note to you dads out there. Contrary to what you might believe, your wife’s breasts actually have another productive purpose. Just saying.
REGULATES BLOOD SUGAR
Your baby receives the blood sugar it needs from the womb and placenta. This occurs naturally. After birth, the baby gets its blood sugar from mom’s milk. All good.
But sometimes, your baby doesn’t get enough glucose from breastfeeding. This can cause serious problems, like poor feeding or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Not good.
That’s right, you guessed it. Skin-to skin contact with your baby does indeed help regulate your baby’s glucose levels.
HELPS BABY TO START BREASTFEEDING
There is conclusive evidence showing that skin-to skin with your newborn helps baby with breastfeeding. Babies actually are born with an enhanced sense of smell. Close contact will help baby find and latch on to mom’s breast earlier and more effectively.
I find this phenomenon of babies having a heightened sense of smell most interesting. I wonder if baby’s smelling ability includes awareness of a very full diaper. I recall my sense of smell being extremely acute in these situations.
Babies have a natural ability to hunt for mom’s breast immediately after birth. I thought it was really fun to watch my newborn sons start to hunt and suckle. It made me laugh out loud. “Look at him go!”
HELPS IMPOVE GUT HEALTH AND GOOD BACTERIA
All of our bodies (including baby’s) have good bacteria and bad bacteria. It is very clear that breastfeeding increases the levels of good bacteria in your baby’s body.
Mom’s breast milk produces antibodies that help to limit the chance of infection in baby. In other words, your baby’s immune system gets a great quick-start for a strong and healthy future.
As we already know, close skin-to-skin enhances the whole breastfeeding process. And effective and early breastfeeding enhances your baby’s ability to fight off infections and build a strong immune system.
This is a very big deal. This benefit for your baby should not be underestimated.
We all like this one – a lot. You will be happy to know that are studies that strongly suggest that babies cry far less during skin-to-skin contact.
It only makes sense. This newborn has just through one hell of a jolt – birth. I would crying like crazy, too. I’m quite sure I did cry like crazy. Your baby will almost certainly cry less when being held close. Baby feels the protection and security of the mother.
“Compared with newborns who did not have skin-to-skin care, newborns who had skin-to-skin care cried less”
Journal of Perinatal Education
Besides, skin-to-skin encourages your baby to be very busy hunting for the old proverbial nipple. Who has time to cry?
One study shows that 3 hours of skin-to-skin contact a day can reduce baby’s crying by up to 43%. Certainly, good news. This study also shows that there are actually people out there that measure baby crying time. Sure glad it wasn’t me.
PROVIDES PAIN AND FEVER RELIEF
It truly is heartbreaking for parents when we see our babies experiencing pain or fever. Well, here is more good news.
Skin to skin contact with your baby can reduce pain and fever.
We have already mentioned the benefit of regulating baby’s temperature. That is exactly what happens when your baby has a fever. The mother’s cooler body temp will naturally transfer to the baby during skin to skin contact.
Something similar occurs when your baby is experiencing pain. Babies actually feel less pain when skin to skin care is initiated. Also, the longer you keep your baby close, the better.
This is especially true if your baby needs painful clinical procedures.
I wondered if this was someone’s “learned” opinion or theory. But there are actual studies that support using skin to skin to reduce pain and fever. In fact, clinical researchers have stated that skin to skin contact is a very effective treatment.
INCREASES COMMUNICATION BETWEEN MOM AND BABY
Skin to skin with your newborn provides parents with a wonderful opportunity to establish communication with baby. You can learn so much from close contact.
For example, is your baby hungry? Is your baby full? Is your baby uncomfortable? Skin to skin will naturally allow to develop a sense to answer all of these questions, and more.
Learning these type of signals from baby is a form of communication. Also baby’s trust in their parents will grow much more quickly.
Speaking of communication, I suppose it is is natural for parents to wish they could talk with their baby. Try not to worry. Your kid will be yapping continuously soon enough. Maybe skin to skin can help shut your 2-year old up. Probably not.
EASES THE TRANSITION FROM THE WOMB
We have already mentioned that birth must be one helluva shock for your baby. Goodbye womb and security. Hello world.
I believe that skin to skin contact is the absolute best way to ease this frightening transition.
Babies that are held skin to skin clearly show better psychological and behavioral tendencies. We have already looked at this. Better breastfeeding, less crying, reduced pain and fever, etc.
In sum, babies who receive skin to skin from they parents truly have an advantage as they venture into the new world around them.
SKIN TO SKIN BUILDS REAL BONDING BETWEEN MOTHER AND BABY
When my kids were born, babies were separated from the mother and placed in some sort of artificial warmer. The idea was to use a machine to help regulate baby’s body temperature.
Fortunately, this practice has changed. Now, babies usually stay close to mom. We have already seen that mom’s body temp is more effective than a machine at regulating baby’s temperature. Equally important, this is an wonderful opportunity for mom and baby to start bonding.
Skin to skin contact allows parents and babies to get to know each other. All of our senses (mom, dad, and baby) are activated. In other words we begin our lifelong bonding process.
This skin to skin bonding doesn’t have to end shortly after birth. There is plenty of evidence that skin to skin promotes better health well beyond the baby’s first days. Many parents continue to hold their baby close through infancy.
This is good for mom and baby. Fun, too.
REDUCES POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION FOR MOM
Postpartum depression must be horrible. Sometimes mom feels like something about the birth went wrong. Maybe she worries that she will be an inadequate parent. She often thinks about other day-to-day life issues that could get in the way (job, money, other kids, you name it).
Overwhelming. I get it. All of this anxiety can easily lead to advanced stress and depression. Doesn’t it seem like postpartum depression is more and more common these days?
But have no fear. Once again, skin to skin contact with your newborn comes to the rescue! It can be very helpful in reducing the instances and effects of postpartum depression.
To me, this concept makes complete and total common sense.
Skin to skin contact is all about absolute joy for mom. The touches, the snuggling, the nursing, the kisses, the smells. All of these feelings truly promote mom’s sense of accomplishment and well-being. It’s hard to get depressed when you are feeling such love and joy.
You would be well advised not to accept my foolish disillusion of what I believe to be common sense. Many have made that mistake. There have been actual studies on the relationship between skin to skin and postpartum depression.
In fact, researchers are recommending skin to skin as a positive alternative to medication for treating postpartum depression.
I won’t attempt to explain the science behind this trend. Saliva samples, cortisol levels, oxytocin hormones? I really don’t understand much about that stuff. As you may have noticed, I don’t need any additional help to say something stupid.
Let’s simplify the connection. Would you like reduce the chance of experiencing postpartum depression? Here are your options:
1. Hold your baby close
2. Take a bunch of hideous drugs
Makes sense to me.
SKIN TO SKIN IMPROVES BABY’S SLEEPING
This might be the best benefit of skin to skin contact with your newborn baby. Saving the best for last? It helps baby sleep better and longer.
If this isn’t your first rodeo with a new baby, then you will know exactly what I am talking about. I couldn’t possibly recall how many times I thought “Please, please, please let this child sleep.” Mostly, these thoughts were in the forefront at 3 AM.
Baby skin to skin will indeed help your baby sleep. Consider all of the wonderful benefits we have looked at. Like better breastfeeding, regulated body temperature, stable heart and lung functions, reduced stress, and all the rest. Your baby will experience better and longer sleep.
This is a terrific plus for the health of the parents as well. If baby is sleeping better, you will sleep better. I think we can easily put this one in the proverbial “plus column.”
Here is a short video highlighting many of the skin to skin contact benefits discussed above.
The Irish Times: The Benefits of Skin To Skin Contact With Your Newborn
Baby Gooroo: 10 Benefits of Skin to Skin Contact
Mommypotamus: 7 Reasons to be Skin To Skin With Your Baby After Birth
Midwifery Today: Kangaroo Care: Why Does It Work?
Shutterstock: Alina Reynbakh
Shutterstock: Iryna Inshna
Shutterstock: Lucian Fraud
Pixabay: Woman Holding Baby
Avera McKennan: Newborn Skin to Skin Technique