Skin to Skin
Gone are the days when a fresh baby was whisked away for a bath instead of being placed directly on mom’s chest. The amazing benefits of kangaroo care, also known as skin-to-skin, are becoming widely known and mainstream in many hospitals around the country. Skin-to-skin refers to the placement of your newborn upon your or your partner’s chest directly after birth, thereby creating direct contact without any clothing barriers. Why is this so beneficial to both you and your baby? Here are some of the incredible reasons.
Skin-to-Skin Benefits for Mom & Baby
- Breastfeeding. Eight different studies have shown that skin-to-skin helps babies breastfeed — on average, up to six weeks longer than those who do not partake in skin-to-skin (Cleveland Clinic, 2018). The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends skin-to-skin directly after birth, as well as for the first few weeks — at least! — thereafter.
- Smoother Fourth Trimester Transition. Babies who partake in skin-to-skin have increased benefits such as better temperature regulation, more stable blood sugar levels, and less crying.
- Reduced Postpartum Depression (PPD). There are several studies that suggest decreased rates of postpartum depression for a new mom when she partakes in skin-to-skin with her newborn. Keep in mind, though, that there are many different factors that can increase the risk of PPD.
- Better Sleep, Less Stress. Skin-to-skin is also shown to help infants fall and stay asleep for longer time periods, which can lead to less stress for both mom and baby.
- Increased Immunity for Baby. Partaking in skin-to-skin is also thought to be beneficial to baby because he or she comes into contact and becomes colonized with the bacteria found on mom’s skin. A mother’s milk will therefore produce antibodies to those bacteria, thus strengthening baby’s immunity.
Things to Keep in Mind
Though skin-to-skin is incredibly beneficial, that doesn’t mean it’s a good initial fit for every mom and baby. For example, premature babies might need interventions after birth that would be more beneficial than initial skin-to-skin contact with mom or her partner. Sometimes complications at birth also warrant clinical intervention, which is more important than that initial skin-to-skin contact. If a mom is delivering by cesarean, she might not get skin-to-skin with her baby right after birth, but in a full term, healthy baby, this could be a great opportunity for her partner to receive skin-to-skin bonding time. Be sure to speak with your provider about his or her thoughts regarding skin-to-skin, as well as including it as an important part of your birth plan.
What if I Missed Out?
If you missed out on skin-to-skin with your baby, that’s ok! Seek out other ways to bond with and connect to your baby now and realize that you are an incredible parent. If you choose to have more children, skin-to-skin is something to consider for your next baby, or to help educate a friend or family member who is expecting.
The benefits of skin-to-skin are plentiful, but as we discussed above, that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. Be sure to speak with your provider to determine if you and your baby are good candidates for skin-to-skin directly after birth. If you don’t have the opportunity to partake in kangaroo care with your newborn, know that there is never a wrong time to start skin-to-skin!