A baby can be placed Skin to skin by having the bare skin of the baby’s chest placed belly down against your bare skin chest. This is a great way of bonding with your baby. The benefits are not just limited to bonding but there are numerous health benefits to skin to skin. It is believed that babies that are placed skin to skin right after birth transition well from their fetus to newborn phase. This in turn has shown several physiological benefits in well coordinated breathing pattern, body temperature and better blood glucose control. Skin to Skin also known as “Kangaroo Care” has tremendous advantages in creating a feeling of security, as the infant recognizes the mother’s heart beat, smell and touch. This causes less stress in the baby with less crying episodes.
In addition, skin to skin or kangaroo care is a great way of eliciting a baby to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a natural instinct in humans just like in all mammals. Due to this natural instinct, breastfeeding is baby-initiated rather than by mother. There have been several videos and research done on the topic of “BABY CRAWL” or “BABY LED BREASTFEEDING”, where the baby left skin to skin right after birth has not only observed rooting and sucking, but also crawling, locating and self latching to the breast without any maternal assistance. The DVD—“The Magical Hour: Holding Your Baby Skin to Skin during the First Hour after Birth” is a great resource to learn from the interviews of mother’s who have experienced baby crawl after birth. Refer to: The Magical Hour
Skin to skin after birth has been associated with high rates of exclusive and successful breastfeeding. The skin to skin in the first hour after birth has also been associated with long-term success of breastfeeding. Studies as early as in 1970s and 80s have demonstrated more confidence and comfort levels in breastfeeding mothers who did skin to skin after birth as compared to mothers who just had a glimpse of their baby after birth due to the separation caused by the four hours long transition of newborn in the newborn nursery. This on-going research and awareness of advantages of keeping mother and baby close together in the postpartum phase have given rise to the concept of “COUPLET CARE” in birthing centers and hospitals. Thus, skin to skin is a first simple and easy step mothers can take towards their breastfeeding experience.
The following is the summary on the advantages of skin to skin for mother and infant:
Simple Benefits for Infant
- Keeps the baby warm
- Stabilizes heart and breathing rate
- Improves the baby’s oxygen levels
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Promotes self attachment to breast
- Improves short term and long-term breastfeeding success and duration
Simple Benefits for Mother
- Increase milk supply
- Increase hormone Oxytocin release leading to more milk which in turns means more milk intake by baby.
- Improves mother’s confidence
- Increases bonding with baby
- Decreases risk of postpartum depression
Philips, R. (2013). Uninterrupted Skin-to-Skin contact immediately after birth. Newborn & Infant Nursing Reviews, 13(2): 67-72.
Texas department of State Health Services (TDSH). The Health Care Provider’s Guide to Breastfeeding. 2011