Bonding with your newborn with skin to skin contact is meant to be very beneficial for both you and your baby.
Several studies support the idea that skin to skin like 'kangaroo care' is essential to create a secure attachment between parents and their children, as it can entail many positive implications in the short and in the long run.
Considering this, a new mum holding and cradling her baby against her skin turns out to be more than an endearing picture, but do you want to know why? Check it out!
Short term benefits...
The short-term benefits of skin to skin contact include:
- Promoting breastfeeding: the fact of placing your naked newborn on your naked skin can help him seek out the nipple and latch on to the breast faster than those children who lack this way of bonding. Indeed, mums who do so are more likely to breastfeed for longer.
- Regulating the baby's temperature: newborns struggle to adapt to the new environment outside the womb, because when they were developing inside their mums, they didn't need to regulate their own body temperature. As your skin is the same temperature as the uterus, it serves as an incubator for your munchkin.
- Minimised crying: experts state that skin to skin contact after birth can not only relax your child, but also limit his crying time.
- Boosting the child's mental development: skin to skin contact is proven to enhance the baby's brain function, as a result from helping him stabilise his heart rate and oxygenation, along with improving his sleep.
- Reducing your discomfort: it also stimulates the hormone oxytocin, which works as a natural pain reliever against problems such as clogged milk ducts.
...and long-term benefits
Having skin to skin contact has other benefits that go beyond your child's early days. For example, it's meant to promote mum-and-baby bond, as it establishes and strengthens an affective link between the two of you, and also between your child and Dad. Moreover, it can make your baby less vulnerable to allergic diseases, as the skin contact allows your child to be colonised by your bacteria. On top of that, again according to research in this field, the babies who enjoy this primary bonding are more likely to do well in school and less vulnerable when it comes to suffering from depression.
How and when to do skin to skin contact
It doesn't pose any secrets. It just takes you to hold or snuggle your naked child against your body, so that he recognises your smell and automatically feels safe. But when should you do it? Well, skin to skin contact after birth is the best recipe for your child, since it's quite a necessary step to succeed in breastfeeding as well as in other aspects mentioned above. However, it's not strictly addressed to newborns and, what's more, it shouldn't! You can carry on doing it for as long as you want, no matter how old your son or daughter is, as skin to skin contact is a fantastic way to reconnect with him or her.
There are situations in which you may have to approach such a bond differently, owing to physical handicaps. For example, if:
- You have a C-section: delivering your child through a C-section doesn't necessarily mean that you won't be able to have skin to skin contact right after birth. You should ask your midwife if you can do so while you are being taken care of after the procedure or you can wait until you are more rested. In such a case, your partner can start doing it instead of you.
- You have a premature o an ill newborn: those babies that need to be placed into incubators, in neonatal intensive-care units (NICU), due to preterm births or certain conditions, can be kangaroo-cared as soon as the medical staff allows it. To kangaroo-care a newborn, you have to hold him against your skin, normally under clothing, which can help maintain his temperature and reduce his need for extra oxygen.
You should consider doing some planning ahead to have skin to skin contact with your child as soon as he's born. Not all hospitals approach it as they should, prioritising that the baby is properly measured, weighed and cleaned instead. Don't forget to let the medical staff know your wishes in advance, so that there are no confusions about it.
To sum up, skin to skin contact can only bring good news for both you and your child. Doing it for about an hour after birth is not only good for present and future bonding with him, but also for increasing your milk supply, promoting the first breastfeed and fighting infections, among other benefits.