What is Skin-to-Skin Contact?
Skin-to-skin time is when baby snuggles on Mom or Dad’s bare chest. Skin-to-skin is good for all babies, whether they are breastfeeding or formula feeding.
Skin-to-skin contact can benefit both babies and parents as well. Everyone can experience the benefits of skin-to-skin contact, including both breastfeeding and formula feeding Moms, Dads, Partners, as well as Adoptive Parents. Both parents can switch off doing skin-to-skin time with the baby at home.
Skin-to-skin contact is typically referred to as the practice where a baby is dried and laid directly on the mother’s bare chest after birth, both covered in a warm blanket and left for at least an hour or until after the first feed. Skin-to-skin contact can be used any time a baby needs comforting, soothing, or calming. This can help with the bonding process. It can also help to enhance a Mom’s milk supply.
Why Did Skin-to-Skin Begin?
Skin-to-skin contact, initially known as Kangaroo Care, was first studied in the early 1980s in Bogota, Colombia. At that time, the mortality rate among premature Colombian babies was 70 percent. Owing to factors such as infections, respiratory problems, and a lack of bonding with a parent.
Kangaroo Care slowly evolved in the absence of medical care. Out of necessity, mothers of premature infants held their babies 24 hours a day. Even sleeping with infants tucked under their clothing, as if in a Kangaroo’s pouch.
Researchers investigating Kangaroo Care noticed a precipitous drop in mortality. In fact, premature babies experiencing Kangaroo Care were thriving!
As a result, Kangaroo Care was introduced to hospitals in the United States in the early 1990s. The benefits associated with Kangaroo Care, mostly studied in neonatal intensive care units (NICU), include:
- Stable heart rate (fewer bradycardic episodes).
- Improvement in regular breathing (75 percent decrease in apneic episodes).
- Improved oxygen saturation.
Additional benefits that have been demonstrated include less cold stress, longer periods of sleep, improved weight gain, better brain development, decreased crying, longer periods of alertness, enhanced breastfeeding, and an earlier hospital discharge.
The benefits to parents include earlier bonding with their infants, and improved self-confidence in the newborn. Breastfeeding and/or bonding should begin within an hour of birth. This can be encouraged as a part of skin-to-skin contact with newborns.
How Do I Perform Skin-to-Skin Contact?
Your newborn’s chest should be placed against your bare chest, between your breasts. Your newborn baby should be naked except for a diaper and a hat and wrapped under blankets or a robe together with you.
Skin-to-skin contact has gained much popularity in hospital settings immediately after birth, and its continuation is encouraged once the mother and newborn are discharged home for as long as you both wish. With skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding becomes easier for your newborn, and his or her temperature remains stable.
Oxytocin (the love hormone) will help you learn your newborn’s cues, produce more milk, and help calm you and your newborn.
If you are breastfeeding, oxytocin will also be released as soon as your newborn grabs a hold of your breast, attaches to the nipple, and continues to be released through your newborn’s suckling.
Your newborn will become familiar with your odor and warmth. Oxytocin will help your newborn associate these familiar cues with breastfeeding. This will help your newborn to continue to feed, while gaining the benefits of skin-to-skin contact.
If you are not breastfeeding, oxytocin can still be released through skin-to-skin contact. You can certainly initiate this bonding approach with your newborn. As a formula-feeding Mom, you and your newborn can achieve many of the benefits associated with oxytocin release, such as a feeling of calm, a decrease in stress, and an increase in bonding and social attachment.
Oxytocin also creates an anti-stress effect, causing sedation and a feeling of calm, which can cause you to feel relaxed and even slightly unfocused.
What are the Benefits of Skin-to-Skin?
Benefits for parents:
- Helps foster a bond with baby.
- Helps with breastfeeding.
- Helps to decrease new parent anxiety, and calm, and relax either parent.
- Reduced postpartum bleeding.
- Lower risk of perinatal mood disorders.
Benefits for baby:
- Reduces stress.
- Encourage better sleep.
- Can help to regulate baby’s heart rate and breathing.
- Can help to stimulate digestion and improve feedings.
- Helps to regulate baby’s body temperature and keep him/her warm.
- Can protect baby against infection by colonizing the baby skin with Mom’s friendly bacteria.
- Stimulates the release of hormones to support feedings and mothering, and parenting.
- Decreases crying in newborns.
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