Skin to skin is something many of us know is a good thing to do, but do you know why? Here’s a mini guide to help you understand why close contact is so beneficial for both parent & baby.
What is it?
It’s quite simply when parent and baby are skin to skin via each of their bodies. It’s not just hand holding or clothed cuddles, it’s nothing between you, uninterrupted contact, usually chest to chest.
When can it be done?
From the moment a baby is born, skin to skin contact has so many benefits for both parent and baby. However for many parents it isn’t possible to have the golden hour immediately post birth for various reasons, and it’s important to remember that it still provides so many benefits in the days, weeks, months, even years after a baby is born.
How can it be done?
You don’t necessarily need anything to do it, but there are some things to aid skin to skin such as carriers and special t-shirts. But essentially, it’s tops off, getting in a comfy position and away you go! If you think baby might get chilly, drape a blanket over the both of you, taking care not to cover their head.
So what are the benefits?
It stabilises baby’s body temperature after being born and this is also true for beyond birth too.
It regulates blood sugar in the hours after birth, particularly helpful if the parent has had gestational diabetes during pregnancy
It supports the start of a breastfeeding journey. Check out the UNICEF video linked at the end of this blog to see how babies who are placed on the parents chest find their own way to the breast, minutes after being born! But even if a baby needs special care post birth and has to be away from the parent for any amount of time, having skin to skin contact whenever possible will aid feeding so much too.
It supports the development of the microbiome by transferring important healthy bacteria from the parent to baby’s skin.
It’s a natural pain reliever. If baby needs to undergo a medical procedure, having them close to you skin-on-skin if possible has been shown to keep them comforted and calm, thus reducing stress, tension and in turn pain.
It helps you to get to know each other & bond. Having the baby in close skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone) in both parent & the baby and helps the parent to learn their baby’s signals sooner, improving communication and increasing confidence as well as helping babies develop a sense of trust and security. Again, this goes for a brand new baby all the way through to the days, weeks and months after birth.
If these aren’t enough reasons to convince you, then it’s just a really lovely thing to do. As humans we need physical contact, and even if you don’t consider yourself a touchy-feely person, give it a go with your little one. Let us know how you get on!
If you’d like to get a deeper understanding of the benefits, here are some resources I recommend starting with: