Here are the “short version” answers:
1. How to? Simply hold your baby (wearing a diaper only) close to your naked breasts or tummy. There certainly are many variations, but this is the gist of it. Not complicated.
2. How long after birth? The best time for skin to skin is immediately after birth. But it doesn’t have to end there. It is more and more common for parents to hold their baby skin to skin throughout infancy.
3. Caesarian? You absolutely can practice skin to skin if you have had a C-Section.
4. Dads? Yes, indeed. Dads should hold their newborn skin to skin as much as possible.
Let’s have a look at each of these topics in more detail.
HOW TO DO SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT WITH YOUR BABY
“Though seemingly simple, this practice has so many proven benefits that it is recommended by the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and the Neonatal Resuscitation Program.”
It is a good idea to make sure your baby is wearing a diaper. This will prevent the so-called dreaded “accident.”
Personally, I truly believe that babies really enjoy using us parents as their own personal toilet. I know my kids did. Any time I was hosed down always resulted in a big baby smile. I considered taping a flush handle to my forehead.
Here are some other techniques to consider when practicing skin to skin with your baby.
HOLD YOUR BABY DIRECTLY AFTER BIRTH 1 HOUR
The baby will feel your heartbeat and feel comforted by your smells. He or she will feel safe and cared for.
Watch this short video, and you will see a great example of the most basic form of skin to skin contact. A crying newborn become instantly calm when placed skin to skin on mom’s chest.
I thought this video was unbelievable. The calming effect is immediate. Also, the care giver explains some of the benefits of skin to skin contact directly after birth.
We have a separate article showing the wonderful benefits. You can check it out here. Benefits of Skin to Skin Contact
Here are some events that will likely occur while you are holding your baby during the first hour after birth.
First Cry: Baby’s first cry comes almost immediately after birth. This is prompted by the first expansion of your baby’s lungs.
Relaxation: Then, your baby will become very calm with little or no movement. We saw this occur in the video above.
Wake Up and Be Active: Next, your baby will begin to show small movements, especially mouth movements. This activity stage con commence surprisingly quickly.
Rest Phase (Or Phases): Your baby may rest more than once during the first hour. This is very normal and should not be a cause for concern.
The Hunt For Food: Your baby will start to push with it’s feet and start looking around for the breast. Many care givers advise against rushing this process. Let your baby find your breast naturally. Babies will find mom’s breast and take some time to become familiar. He may touch, lick, or massage the nipple.
Suckling: Eventually, your baby will latch on and go to town. The hunt is over. Please bear in mind that it may take an hour or so for your baby to finally start to nurse.
Rest: What an adventure! After hunting and nursing for the first time, baby will almost certainly sleep. 2 hours is not uncommon.
This whole process is very predictable and very common. But it’s just not possible without having skin to skin contact with your newborn baby.
Try not to rush your baby through the natural process of nursing for the first time. It may take your baby an hour or so to latch on and begin to chow down. This doesn’t mean that your baby is lazy or confused. Not at all. It just means your baby is becoming aware for the first time. You certainly will enjoy watching this amazing process unfold.
MAKING EYE CONTACT WITH YOUR BABY
Try this instead. When holding your baby skin to skin, position him or her at an angle (about 45 degrees). Now, baby can easily look directly at mom (or dad). Voila! Eye contact
There actually is a scientific term for employing this technique. It’s called Supported Diagonal Flexion Kangaroo Positioning. SDF, for short.
Are you kidding me? Who could possibly come up with a name like that? Supported Diagonal Flexion Kangaroo Positioning? What does flexion even mean?
I must be some sort of simple stooge. Here is what I would call it:
Hold Your Baby At An Angle Technique
Sorry to say, we appear to be stuck with SDF.
Anyway, the idea is make it easy for you to make eye contact with your baby. This will help you to smile at and talk to your baby. This is wonderful way to establish immediate bonding with baby.
Not to be outdone, whoever came up with the name Supported Diagonal Flexion also conducted a study to analyze benefits. HYBBA SDF positioning resulted in less crying, reduced restlessness, and a deeper sleep. Also, the skin to skin sessions lasted longer.
This looks like an excellent technique to try. More fun, too.
ROOM-IN WITH YOUR BABY
This is a real good idea. Keeping your baby with you is called Rooming-In. The benefit is really quite simple. Parents get more opportunities to engage in skin to skin contact with their baby.
Many parents continue Rooming-In with their baby after they get home
PRACTICE BABY WEARING
“Use a sling, a harness-style carrier, a wrap, or some other type of baby carrier to keep your baby close throughout the day. To enhance skin-to-skin contact, keep your baby in a diaper and touch your baby often.”
Using baby wearing gear will help a lot if you are practicing the SDF position mentioned above. The extra support will make it easier and safer to haul your bundle of joy around.
We have a separate article about baby wearing options. You can check it out here and choose the best option for you.
COMFORT YOUR BABY DURING FEEDINGS
HOW TO DO SKIN TO SKIN WITH TUMMY TO TUMMY
So, why not make tummy time another opportunity for you to have skin to skin with your baby? This will also help strengthen baby’s neck muscles.
I really don’t think it matters which option you choose. But you will probably find that your baby will love the sound of your voice. I recall being quite amused when my kids gave me their undivided attention when I talked to them.
They surely had no idea what I was saying. I certainly had no clue what I was talking about. But the babies just loved it.
So, talk to your baby. Sing a song. If you can’t think of anything to say, read a story. It doesn’t matter. Your baby will pay very close attention and love the sound of your voice.
Here is a short video to provide a few ideas.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU DO SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT WITH YOUR NEWBORN BABY
How long should you do skin to skin contact with your newborn baby?
How often? Actually, we can break these queries into two parts:
- How long should our skin to skin sessions last?
- How old should my baby be when I stop skin to skin contact?
LENGTH OF SKIN TO SKIN SESSIONS
Expert opinions regarding the length of skin to skin sessions seems to vary somewhat. Try to make your sessions last for at least one hour. This will provide your baby with lots of time to get acclimated to mom or dad.
Some care givers recommend a minimum of 2 hours for your sessions.
There is no real set time limit or minimum. Snuggle your baby for as long as you want. Also, make close skin contact with your baby as frequently as you want. You can keep at it as long as your baby remains comfortable. However, it is not a good idea for mom or dad to sleep during your skin to skin sessions.
WHEN TO STOP SKIN TO SKIN WITH YOUR BABY
“In the hours, days, weeks and months to come, you can carry on doing skin-to-skin with your baby whenever you want to, and for as long as your baby is happy with it. Skin-to-skin can help to calm your baby when she is hungry or upset.”
What about after the first few days? How long should we continue with skin too skin sessions? When should we stop?
Many parents have continued with skin to skin contact for up to six months. The terrific baby wearing garments that are available have made this quite easy. You can walk around and provide skin to skin snuggling at the same time.
There is no “set in stone” answer to how long. It depends on you and your baby. At some point, your baby will not want as much snuggling skin to skin activity. For example, when your son becomes the starting linebacker for his high school football team, maybe it’s time to nix the skin to skin stuff.
WHAT IF YOUR BIRTH WAS A CAESARIAN?
How does a Caesarian affect your ability to provide skin to skin contact with your newborn baby? Usually, you can safely initiate skin to skin directly after birth, even if you have had a C-Section.
The health of your baby is not really the concern. His or her condition is almost always the same whether the birth has been Caesarian or vaginal.
The concerns about immediate skin to skin after a Caesarian birth involve mom. After all, mom just had surgery. You know, knives, scalpels, anesthesia, etc. Is mom alert enough to provide skin to skin care immediately after Caesarian surgery?
The answer is usually a resounding “Yes.” Moms are almost always alert enough to engage is skin to skin directly after a C-Section. It happens all the time.
Sometimes, mom has been through a more challenging surgery. She might need a little time to recover and is not ready to care for her baby with skin to skin contact. This is relatively uncommon, but is does happen.
In that case, dad can fill in. Skin to skin with dad is very beneficial to your baby. Almost all of the wonderful benefits still apply with dad at the helm. Breastfeeding, of course, is the notable exception.
Most hospitals and birthing centers are well aware of the benefits of skin to skin contact immediately after birth, even if a Caesarian procedure has occurred. But it’s a good idea to clarify with your care givers that you wish to have your baby close to you immediately after birth.
“If a hospital staff member tells people giving birth that it is “impossible” for them to stay together with their babies after a Cesarean, that statement is false. Making the switch from routine separation to couplet care can be done—many hospitals have already done so. Although couplet care may be more inconvenient for staff in the beginning, in the end, keeping mothers and babies together after a Cesarean is what is best.’
Journal of Perinatal Education
DAD AND BABY SKIN TO SKIN
Skin to skin with dad benefits your baby
These benefits also occur when dad holds baby skin to skin. The obvious excepting involves better breastfeeding. But studies have shown that skin to skin with dad allows baby to reap all the other benefits.
Sorry to mention this, dad. Skin to skin contact with mom is a little more beneficial for baby than it is with you. Get used to it. But skin to skin with you, dad, is the next best thing.
Give Mom A Break
Here is your chance, dad. Take over with the baby when mom needs to rest. You are helping baby adjust to being in the real world and giving mom a chance to recover.
“Though dads don’t have milk, they are capable of doing all the other baby care stuff Mom can do. In fact, Dad is very valuable in instances of premature birth or if Mom needs medical care after birth.”
Dads Can Experience The Joy, Too
Dads love their babies just as much. Why can’t dads experience the joy of having baby look into his eyes for the first time?
Many care givers agree. They recommend having dad set aside some time every day to provide skin to skin care for their new baby. This sounds like a good idea. Hey dads, you are going to love it.
Baby Gooroo: How to Give Your Baby Skin-to-Skin Care
Mommypotamus: Skin to Skin Care After Birth
Evidence Based Birth: Skin to Skin After Caesarian
Mama Natural: How to Maximize Skin to Skin Time With Baby
La Lache League Canada: Skin to Skin Contact
Baby Centre: Skin to Skin With Your Baby
Behavioral Research Blog: Comparing Two Different Skin to Skin Contact Techniques
Shutterstock: Tomsickova Tatyana
Shutterstock: Kati Finell
Shutterstock: Gabor Racz
Maxpixel: Soft Baby Mom
Care New England: Skin to Skin With Your Newborn Baby
Under the Yellow Sun: One Day Old Newborn Skin to Skin Contact
Mater: Baby Massage