8 benefits of skin-to-skin contact with your baby after birth
Skin-to-skin contact fosters connect and comes with added health benefits for mum and bub.
Being able to hold your baby on your chest immediately after they are born is one of the most incredible experiences for many mums. Skin-to-skin contact with your newborn is more than just a special embrace. There are plenty of benefits that can carry on later in life for both you and your baby.
1. It keeps your baby warm
The warmth of the mother’s breast can help the baby maintain an optimal body temperature. Incredibly, as the baby’s temperature starts to decrease, the breasts temperature rises as much as 2°C in two minutes.
2. It regulates the baby’s breathing
It’s not uncommon for babies to sometimes temporarily stop breathing or for their heart rate to slow. This is because their systems are immature and while most start breathing again on their own accord, the cues your body provides is essential. As you breathe, your baby’s breath and heartbeat will become in sync with yours.
3. It enhances the bond between mother and baby
The first hour after birth is often referred to the ‘golden hour’ as is the perfect time for an intense connection between parent and child.
A study by the University of Montreal found that the baby’s odour stimulates the brain like no other scent and the release of dopamine is heightened. In the process it basically activates the neurological reward circuit in mothers, creating a state of desire that will even last when the baby is no longer in front of you.
4. It may reduce postpartum depression
As intricate hormonal patterns are stimulated within the mother during skin-to-skin contact, feelings of well-being and motherly instincts are reinforced.
A study published in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological, and Neonatal Nursing found that skin-to-skin contact could be considered an alternative therapy to mothers wanting to avoid taking medication. Mothers who experienced six hours of skin-to-skin contact during the first week and with at least two hours during the first month reported fewer depressive signs and symptoms.
5. It helps baby’s sleep better
We could all do with a bit of extra sleep when we have a baby! According to a study published in the journal of Pediatrics, skin-to-skin contact helps the baby fall asleep more easily and can even help extend the period of time they stay asleep!
6. It reduces the baby’s crying
Having skin-to-skin contact for just three hours a day can help reduce your baby’s crying by 43 percent. This helps reduce both the mother’s and baby’s stress levels and promote a feeling of well-being.
7. It reduces the rate of postpartum haemorrhage
According to an Australian cohort study, skin-to-skin contact with the baby in the first 30 minutes after birth can reduce the rate of serious bleeding by almost 50 percent! Postpartum haemorrhage is one to the major causes of illness and death to mothers following labour, so to reduce this through contact and breast nuzzling is incredible.
8. It may Improve gut health and immunity
Allowing your baby to have skin-to-skin contact with you helps their digestive system mature. This contact simulates the vagal nerve, which causes the villi in the newborn gut to grow and increase in size. A larger surface area of villi, increases the absorption of nutrition.
Skin-to-skin contact with your new born also reduces the chance of infection as your baby becomes colonised with your own bacteria. This is particularly beneficial for those babies delivered by caesarean.
9. It can Improve breastfeeding
Babies who have experienced skin-to-skin contact are more likely to breastfeed sooner and for a longer period. A randomised controlled trial by the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Nashville showed babies who were examined and swaddled before being placed on their mother showed delays in feeding behaviour, suckled less competently during their first breastfeed and established effective breastfeeding later.
While a lot of these benefits focus on the mother and baby, skin-to-skin contact with fathers can also be beneficial particularly when it comes to bonding. If you have a caesarean born baby, it is beneficial for the baby to remain on the skin of his/her father while you recover from the anaesthetic. The only thing the father doesn’t do better than the mother when it comes to skin-to-skin contact is temperature control! Babies tend to overheat when they are laying on their dad’s, but in most cases they will be able self-regulate.
More and more nurses are encouraging skin-to-skin contact immediately after the birth, however if this is an important aspect of welcoming your child into the world, than it is best to put it into your birth plan before you head into labour.