Skin to skin after birth newborn baby

The benefits of skin-to-skin care

The benefits of skin-to-skin care

What is skin-to-skin care?

Skin-to-skin care is a biologically normal practice where an unclothed newborn is placed on the mother or caregiver’s bare chest right after birth, hence the term skin-to-skin. It is recommended that a newborn be placed on the mother’s bare chest for skin-to-skin care directly after birth and that they should stay there undisturbed for at least an hour after birth, or until after the first feed.

Skin-to-skin care is recommended for all mothers and babies, whether the baby has been born by vaginal birth or caesarean birth, breastfeeds or is formula fed. It is beneficial to all mothers and babies. Skin-to-skin care should only be postponed or interrupted if it’s truly medically indicated, and it should still be encouraged as soon as the mother and baby is stable enough.

When a baby is placed on the mother’s bare chest directly after birth and is left undisturbed, strong instinctive behaviors will be initiated in both the mother and the baby.

The baby will go through the 9 stages of innate newborn behavior, also known as the breast crawl. They will find their way to the breast by using the stepping reflex to crawl upwards to the breasts. Babies will usually need very minimal if any assistance in finding and latching on to the breast. Having baby skin-to-skin helps with oxytocin, which not only helps with stimulating a letdown of colostrum from the breasts, but it also stimulates uterine contractions to help with the expulsion of the placenta, that together with the stepping reflex which helps release the placenta.

A newborn baby doing skin-to-skin care also known as the breast crawl after birth. Evidence Based Babies.

The 9 stages if innate newborn behavior:

1) The birth cry.

Immediately after birth.

2) Relaxation

(For about 2-3 minutes).

The baby is quiet and still for a few minutes.

3) Awakening

The baby starts moving, could include body movements, eyes opening and mouthing movements.

(From about 3 minutes).

4) Activity

The baby may begin looking for the mother and make increased mouthing or sucking movements, baby may also drool.

(From about 8 minutes).

5) Resting

Resting may occur at any point during the breast crawl.

6) Crawling

The baby begins approaching the breast by crawling towards it using the stepping reflex. This stepping motion may also help deliver the placenta. Mouthing and sucking motions continue.

(From about 20 minutes).

7) Familiarization

The baby becomes acquainted with the mother’s breasts. The baby may lick, touch or massage the breast while looking at the mother.

(At about 45 minutes).

8) Suckling

The baby self-attaches to the nipple and begins to suck with minimum to no assistance.

(At about 60 minutes).

9) The mother and baby then go into a deep sleep.

The benefits of skin-to-skin care for the baby:

– Improvement and stabilization of their heart and lung function.

– Stabilization of their body temperature

– Regulation of their blood sugar levels

– Improved brain development and function

– Reduction of cortisol levels

– It stimulates digestion and an interest in feeding

– Improves sleep

– It promotes the initiation of breastfeeding

– Colonizes baby with the mother’s good bacteria

– Reduction in crying

– Relief from pain during medical procedures

– Enhancement of mother and baby communication due to the closeness and better ability to learn each other’s cues

– Easier transition from the womb to the outside world

– Boost in maternal and child bonding

Not only does skin-to-skin care offer babies an optimal start to life with many amazing benefits, but it also offers many wonderful benefits to the mother as well. It’s important to note that skin-to-skin care does not offer benefits to only the mother, it can be done with any caregiver at any given age, and it will provide benefits to both the baby and the caregiver, or even other siblings. It is a wonderful way for a father to bond with their baby while both giving and receiving many wonderful benefits.

The benefits of skin-to-skin care for the mother:

– It promotes the initiation of breastfeeding

– It helps boost the milk supply

– Helps with the expulsion of the placenta

– Enhancement of mother and baby communication due to the closeness and better ability to learn each other’s cues

– Boost in maternal and child bonding

– Helps normalize a difficult or surgical birth

– Reduces the risk of postpartum hemorrhage

– Can reduce maternal stress and the risk of postpartum depression

The benefits of skin-to-skin care also known as kangaroo care for newborns in the NICU:

– Improves oxygen saturation

– Lowered cortisol levels

– Enhanced child cognitive development and executive functions

– It assists with improved weight gain and growth

– Improved pre-feeding behaviors

– It may reduce the hospital stay

So, there you have it, skin-to-skin care offers wonderful bonding opportunities and many benefits to both babies and caregivers. You can continue skin-to-skin care for as long as you want to, and it will always offer many benefits no matter the age of the baby or child. We humans flourish on physical touch, even as adults most of us have a need for physical touch. You can get some nice skin-to-skin with older children in different ways such as actual skin-to-skin or even a nice cuddle on the couch. When you have teens who may not be so keen on cuddles anymore, you can through in a nice head and neck massage. Great way to have some skin-to-skin while keeping the teens happy too.

Additional information and resources:

UNICEF skin-to-skin care video

UNICEF list of skin-to-skin care research

A Systematic Review of the Effects of Skin-to-Skin Contact on Biomarkers of Stress in Preterm Infants and Parents

The effect of mother and newborn early skin-to-skin contact on initiation of breastfeeding, newborn temperature and duration of third stage of labor

The economic benefits of increasing kangaroo skin-to-skin care and breastfeeding in neonatal units: analysis of a pragmatic intervention in clinical practice

Skin‐to‐skin contact the first hour after birth, underlying implications and clinical practice

A plausible pathway of imprinted behaviors: Skin-to-skin actions of the newborn immediately after birth follow the order of fetal development and intrauterine training of movements

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