Skin-to-skin contact is one of the most natural and beautiful experiences that you or your partner can share with your baby. It plays an important role in the bonding process, is an integral part of successful breastfeeding and assists your baby in their transition to their new life, both physiologically and emotionally.
The first chance for skin-to skin contact is as soon as you have delivered your baby. Have your baby placed on your bare chest with a blanket placed over the top of you for warmth. This time is often referred to as the ‘Magical Hour’ and is such a precious and important time for the early stages of the bonding process to occur. The touch of your baby releases a hormone called oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone’. This enhances the bonding and attachment between you and your beautiful new baby.
Skin-to-skin contact helps to fulfil the need that your baby has instinctively for human contact and gives your baby the security and reassurance that they need, giving them a lovely calm and gentle entry into the outside world. Studies have shown that babies who are held skin-to-skin regularly and who are cuddled and kept close to their mothers in their first few days/months of their life show clearly that they are more settled and cry less than those separated from their mother.
Having your baby skin-to-skin has a powerful effect on your baby’s physical state. It regulates their temperature (babies are born with an immature thermoregulation system so if a baby is struggling with keeping warm in their first few days, skin –to-skin contact has been shown to be more effective at warming a baby than any artificial warmer) it also regulates their breathing, heart rate and it even keeps their blood sugar levels stable. It also strengthens your baby’s immune system because your baby becomes colonized to the bacteria that is on your skin. Your breast milk then produces antibodies in response and makes your milk specifically protective against that bacteria. Pretty clever aye.
Skin-to-skin also plays an important role in successful breastfeeding. At birth, both you and your baby have extremely powerful pheromones that attract you to each other. It also instinctively attracts your baby to your nipple. Babies are born with senses and reflexes that help them to smell, crawl, lick and latch onto the breast to feed…nature is truly amazing when we don’t interfere with it. There is a beautiful video put out by UNICEF that shows exactly this…well worth a watch. Research has even shown that when skin-to-skin contact is used regularly throughout those early weeks, it helps to encourage a very good milk supply.
Skin-to-skin can be practiced not only just after your baby is born but also throughout your baby’s first few months of life. It works very effectively to calm an unsettled baby as it replicates the security they felt from being in the womb. Other lovely ways of giving your baby skin-to-skin is by giving your baby a massage, having a bath with your baby or even wearing your baby using a front pack or sling etc.
Skin-to skin is such a lovely experience to share with your baby and lets not forget the Dad’s too, they can be very much a part of this experience.
I hope all is going well for you and your baby but please feel free to contact me at anytime if you feel you need some further support or advice.