Skin to skin contact with your baby does a lot more than bonding.
There are now a multitude of studies that show that mothers and babies should be together, skin to skin (baby naked not wrapped in a blanket) immediately after birth as well as later on. The baby is happier, the baby’s temperature is more stable and the baby’s heart and breathing are more stable and the baby’s blood sugar is more stable. Skin to skin is an important start to breast feeding as well.
Benefits of Skin to Skin Contact
- It helps baby adapt.
Temperature regulation is a very common problem with babies, especially premature babies. When your baby is in your womb she does not need to regulate her temperature, carrying out skin to skin baby will find it easier to adapt to her environment after birth.
- It boosts baby’s mental development.
According to Ludington in a Canadian study premature babies who received skin to skin care had better brain functioning at 15 years than those that were placed in an incubator. By stabilizing heart rates, oxygenation and improving sleep the brain is better able to develop.
- It promotes healthy weight.
A review in the Cochrane Library concluded that skin to skin contact dramatically increases new born weight gain. According to Ludington when babies are warm they don’t need to use their energy to regulate their body temperature, they can use that energy to grow. Skin to skin also increased breast feeding rates.
- It makes breast feeding easier.
A study published in Neonatal Network found that mums who practiced skin to skin care were more likely to breast feed exclusively and on average these mothers breast fed three months longer than those who didn’t practice skin to skin.
New born babies have a heightened sense of smell so placing your baby skin to skin helps her seek out your nipple and begin breast feeding.
- It helps with milk production.
When mother and baby are together there is a balance in the hormones that regulate lactation, therefore helping mum to produce more milk.
- It reduces Baby’s stress.
Skin to skin contact for as little as 10 minutes reduces the baby’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increases the levels of the hormone oxytocin which stimulates the nervous system to make babies feel calm and safe, according to Ludington. Her research, which was published in AACN Clinical Issues, shows that when preterm babies are held chest to chest they react less to heel stick test.
- It helps baby sleep.
Less stress means better sleep. According to a report in the journal of Paediatrics premature babies who were cradled skin to skin slept more deeply and woke up less often that those who slept in incubators.
- It promotes bonding with Dads.
According to researcher Gene Cranston in Cleveland, babies while in the womb recognise their Dad’s voice. Babies find skin to skin contact with dad calming and it helps them bond.
- It helps prevent postnatal depression.
Various studies show that skin to skin contact reduces postnatal depression. According to MCN the American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, activity in the mother’s adrenal axis is negatively influenced by childbirth and skin to skin contact may reactivate the pathways to minimize the risk of depression. Also the oxytocin released from skin to skin contact decreases maternal anxiety and promotes attachment further reducing the risk.
- When to get the benefits.
When it comes to skin to skin contact more is better, but according to Ludington, the first 2 hours after birth are the most important in terms of easing baby into the world. After that continued skin to skin contact can still be beneficial especially for premature babies that have low birth weight and are unable to regulate their temperature. Do it as long as both baby and parents enjoy it.
Jo Scobie, a Longford native, has over 29 years experiences as a midwife in both Scotland and Ireland. Jo is the founder/director of www.antenatalonline.ie . Antenatal Online provides antenatal classes, information, help and advice for all prospective parents, delivered at a time convenient for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.