Placing your baby skin-to-skin after birth has been scientifically proven to be one of the best things you can do, with numerous research studies that proves countless benefits of skin-to-skin contact. It reaps multiple benefits for both parent and baby.
Your warm skin can be the first thing your baby feels after they're born. Your baby will be able to smell you, feel your heartbeat, hear your breathing, and feel safe and cared for. Here are a few of the benefits of Skin-to-skin contact for both parent and child.
Why is skin-to-skin so important after birth?
Holding your newborn baby for the first time can be one of the most amazing experiences in your life. You may feel overwhelming feelings of love and protectiveness flooding your whole body.
It may even feel as if these emotions are actually coursing through your veins, because skin-to-skin contact with your baby triggers a powerful hormonal response in you.
Of course, not all mums feel this straight away. You may be exhausted from a long labour, or the birth may not have been the experience you hoped for. If that's the case, holding your baby skin-to-skin will help to nourish loving feelings. Touching and stroking your baby stimulates the release of your body’s natural feel-good chemical, oxytocin.
Skin-to-skin helps your baby in many ways. They have just emerged from the dark, warm haven of your womb, into an unfamiliar world that has bright lights and new sounds. And it is cold by comparison. The experience must be something like stepping out of a warm bath.
In addition, skin-to-skin with your newborn helps to regulate their breathing and heartbeat and keep their blood sugar at the right level. It also builds up their immunity to infections.
How do we do skin-to-skin with our baby?
If you are doing skin-to-skin immediately after giving birth, your midwife will dry your baby, place her on your bare chest, and cover her with a clean, dry towel or a blanket. Your midwife may put a little hat on your baby, if you haven't brought one for her. Your baby will lose most of her body heat through her head and keeping her warm helps to make skin-to-skin a warm, comfortable experience for her. That’s all there is to it!
Both parents can do skin-to-skin when bottle-feeding too. You and your baby still get all the benefits of this close and loving experience. This offers the same benefits as breastfeeding in terms of developing that close bond and attachment. It also helps your baby to feel safe and calm while getting to know you both.
What if I can’t hold my baby straight after giving birth?
Skin-to-skin contact is an important part of routine care after you’ve given birth. So your maternity team will know to prioritise this special time with your baby. Unless there is a medical reason not to, your baby should be placed skin-to-skin on your chest as soon as possible.
If you've had a caesarean, unless there have been complications, it should still be possible to hold your baby skin-to-skin soon after the birth. If you want to have skin-to-skin in theatre, you need to put it in your birth plan, agree it with the theatre team before the operation starts and put your hospital gown on so that it opens at the front. Otherwise, you can have skin-to-skin with your baby as soon as you're in the recovery room.
Your baby can be placed high on your chest, to avoid the area where your wound is. This may restrict eye contact a little, but your baby can still enjoy the warmth of your skin and the sound of your voice.
If your baby has medical problems and needs urgent treatment, it may not be possible for either of you to hold her right away. It’s natural to feel sad about missing this experience at this time.
Can skin-to-skin help us to bond as a family?
Absolutely. Skin-to-skin contact is a great way for both mums and dads to bond with their babies.
It can improve the relationship and communication between parents. Sharing close cuddles with your baby in this way helps to bring you all closer as a family, and can help you adjust to your new life.
There is some chemistry behind this: in mum and dad, skin-to-skin contact increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin, and decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Benefits of Skin-skin for Baby:
Babies need lots of skin-to-skin time with mum and dad in the hospital and at home. Here are a few benefits of skin-to-skin contact:
- Demonstrate improved weight gain
- Experience more stable heartbeat and breathing
- Long-term benefits, such as improved brain development and function as well as parental attachment
- Helps baby cry less
- Releases hormones that relieve stress and stabilise baby's temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, and blood sugar
- Boosts baby's immune system and protects against illness and disease.
- Builds a strong brain through the smells, textures, and sounds the baby experiences while he's on mom or dad's chest
Benefits of Skin-skin for Mother:
- Improved breast milk production
- Likely to have reduced postpartum bleeding and lower risk of postpartum depression
- Helps mum breastfeed longer by building her milk supply and making her bond with baby stronger
- Helps your colostrum (the first milk that is full of nutrients that protect baby) to flow more easily
- More successful at breastfeeding immediately after birth
- Lowers mum's risk of postpartum mood disorder
- Creates connections between mum, dad, and baby that last a lifetime
- Gives mum a chance to rest or take a break
- Releases a hormone that lowers mum's stress and promotes healing