You and Your Baby: The Importance of Skin-to-skin Contact

When my first child was born, I read all the books, blog posts, articles and personal testimonies. I also watched every television show or documentary on parenting and babies. Overwhelming as they were, I managed to discover some really useful information, and one constant message was the importance of skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. That was definitely something I looked forward to doing. Who doesn’t love the snuggle and warmth of a new baby against your chest, so thankful for a healthy new life in the world?

It came naturally to me once my son was born and the doctor laid him on my bare chest. But, my husband didn’t have that immediate experience with our new baby and I wanted him to. So those couple of days in the hospital, then the first few weeks at home, we made sure to let daddy enjoy skin-to-skin contact as well. My husband’s voice was soothing for my son and helped to calm his anxious cries, but also laying on daddy’s bare chest provided the reassurance for him that everything was okay.

So, what is skin-to-skin baby contact and why is it important? It is when a baby’s naked skin is placed directly onto the mother’s naked skin/chest in an effort to soothe and encourage attachment and bonding between the baby and mother. This method was encouraged in an effort to mimic what kangaroo mothers do with their young when they hold them in a pouch attached to their bodies for safety, warmth and ease of feeding. It’s best when it happens immediately after a newborn has been delivered from their mother’s womb. Yet, it is encouraged to continue well after delivery and into the initial weeks/months of the newborn phase.

The Benefits

Comfort:

Baby cries less because they feel safe

Warmth:

Baby’s temperature is regulated and they are warm

Infection Protection:

Skin-to-skin contact before baby is even cleaned off, allows baby to be less prone to infection because he/she has more time in contact with the beneficial bacteria transmitted from mommy during a vaginal birth.

Easier Breastfeeding:

Baby will smell mommy’s milk and turn their head directly to the breast.

Neurological Development and Growth:

Stabilizes baby’s heart rate, breathing patterns and blood oxygen levels. It also helps with sleep time, weight and crying of the baby.

Remember when I mentioned earlier that skin-to-skin contact was not only beneficial for mommies and babies, but also for dads as well? Well, there has been scientific evidence to support this claim. According to the US National Library of Medicine, just as there is a positive impact for infants when there is skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately after birth, the same impact is had when fathers are able to have skin-to-skin contact with baby. Baby’s response is calm and a peaceful quiet when their fathers soothe them by holding them skin-to-skin.

Having a baby carries with it its own set of anxieties, so, it’s reassuring to know that just from feeling you close to their skin, your baby is able to be calmed and feel safe.

by Georgina Chong-You