Hey mom, what is skin-to-skin and why is it so important?
Skin-to-skin contact is the practice where a baby is dried and laid directly on the mother’s bare chest after birth. Both mom and baby are then covered in a warm blanket and left for at least an hour or until after the first feed. Skin-to-skin contact can also take place any time a baby needs comforting or calming and can help boost a mom's milk supply. Skin-to-skin contact is vital in neonatal units, where it is often known as ‘kangaroo care’. It helps mom and dad bond with baby and supports better physical and developmental outcomes for the baby. That’s right, dad can do skin-to-skin too!
There is a growing body of evidence that skin-to-skin contact after the birth helps babies and their mothers.
But why? Well, skin-to-skin:
• Calms and relaxes both mother and baby
• Regulates the baby’s heart rate and breathing, helping them to better adapt to life outside the womb
• Stimulates digestion and helps baby gain an interest in feeding
• Regulates temperature
• Enables colonisation of the baby’s skin and gut with mom's friendly bacteria, providing protection against infection
• Stimulates the release of hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering
Skin-to-skin contact also provides benefits for babies in the neonatal unit, in that it:
• Improves oxygen saturation
• Reduces cortisol (stress) levels, particularly following painful procedures
• Encourages pre-feeding behaviour
• Assists with growth
• May help reduce hospital stay
• Improves milk volume if the mom expresses following a period of skin-to-skin contact, with the expressed milk containing the most up-to-date antibodies