What is skin-to-skin contact?
Skin-to-skin contact is usually referred to as the practice where a baby is dried and laid directly on their mother’s bare chest after birth, both of them 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 to help boost a mother’s milk supply. Skin-to-skin contact is also vital in neonatal units, where it is often known as ‘kangaroo care’, helping parents to bond with their baby, as well as supporting better physical and developmental outcomes for the baby.
Why is skin-to-skin contact important?
There is a growing body of evidence that skin-to-skin contact after the birth helps babies and their mothers in many ways.
- 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 interest in feeding
- Regulates temperature
- Enables colonization of the baby’s skin with the mother’s friendly bacteria, thus providing protection against infection
- Stimulates the release of hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering.
- Additional benefits for babies in the neonatal unit
- Improves oxygen saturation
- Reduces cortisol (stress) levels particularly following painful procedures
- Encourages pre-feeding behavior
- Assists with growth
- May reduce hospital stay
- Stimulates digestion and interest in feeding milk volume will improve and the milk expressed will contain the most up-to-date antibodies
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