Due to its amazing benefits for mom and baby, skin-to-skin is now being recommended by doctors and midwives throughout the world. Skin-to-skin is encouraged immediately, and for the first few weeks, after a baby’s birth, but continues to benefit both mom and baby well beyond that.
Skin-to-skin contact, also known as Kangaroo Care, occurs when a mother or father holds a baby bare chest to bare chest. If it is a bit chilly, you can cover your baby’s back with a blanket. Some of the benefits of skin-to-skin include:
- Temperature Regulation — skin-to-skin helps regulate baby’s temperature. Within minutes of being held skin-to-skin, a mother’s breasts adjust to cool baby down or warm baby up. Surprisingly enough, if you have twins, each breast acts independently to care for both babies at once.
- Brain Development — skin-to-skin is multi-sensory and accelerates brain maturation. Babies who are held or worn skin-to-skin also have enhanced organizational patterns due to more time spent in quiet sleep.
- Digestion and Weight Gain — skin-to-skin reduces cortisol in babies which helps them better absorb and digest nutrients.
- Immune System — skin-to-skin stimulates a baby’s immune system. Mom’s immune system passes antibodies through her skin and through her breast milk to baby.
- Regulates Heart Rate and Breathing — skin-to-skin allows baby’s body to self-regulate which results in a more stable breathing pattern and heartbeat.
- Milk Production and Letdown Reflex — skin-to-skin contact increases the production level of prolactin: a hormone responsible for milk production. It also encourages the milk letdown reflex during breastfeeding.
- Bonding — skin-to-skin encourages closeness and bonding between mom and baby or dad and baby.
- Calms and Soothes — skin-to-skin calms a fussy baby by decreasing stress through the reduction of cortisol within 20 minutes. A baby’s level of pain is also reduced during skin-to-skin.
In addition to these benefits, skin-to-skin contact provides other great benefits as well. I continue to practice skin-to-skin with my four month old, because I find it calms her when she is fussy and helps me to continue successful breastfeeding. The benefits of skin-to-skin do not decrease after a baby’s first few weeks of life and continue to be helpful long after.
By Holly M.