Skin to Skin with Baby: Why is it important?
During pregnancy, your body meets all of your baby’s needs. Your baby is kept warm, continuously fed and securely enclosed. By snuggling your new baby skin to skin, you can help him transition from the womb to the outside world.
The benefits of skin to skin contact at birth are clear. “It is not something nice to do. It’s something we have to do.” (Researcher Louise Dumas, RN, MSN, PhD) It is ideal for your baby to be placed on your chest immediately after birth and to stay snuggled there for at least an hour, uninterrupted.
Why skin to skin contact important for your baby?
- The warmth of your body helps his temperature to adjust and stabilize.
- His heart and breathing rate become more regular.
- It reduces baby’s stress, leading to a more stable blood sugar.
- Being close to your breast helps your newborn learn to feed.
- It provides comfort if painful procedures, such as blood tests, are needed.
- Your baby will be more content and will cry less
Why skin to skin contact important for you?
- It helps your body to expel your placenta more quickly.
- You will be more aware of your baby’s hunger signals.
- Moms who snuggle skin to skin find it easier to latch their baby.
- Your body will produce higher amounts of prolactin, a hormone that helps your body to make milk.
- Skin to skin contact soothes a fussy baby; this in turn decreases your stress level.
- When baby is held close, you are able to inhale his newborn scent. This is known to enhance bonding.
How to safely snuggle skin to skin immediately after birth
Researcher Louise Dumas recommends the following steps to keep skin to skin contact safe in the minutes immediately following birth. (Note: the order is important.)
- Place baby directly on your bare chest, without a diaper, without drying him off.
- Stretch baby out so that your bodies are in contact as much as possible, baby’s chest against your chest.
- Be sure baby is free to move and lift his head and that he can breathe easily from his mouth and nose.
- Dry him while continuing to snuggle skin to skin. Pay special attention to drying baby’s back and head.
- Cover both of you with one dry blanket.
*If you have a cesarean delivery, your partner can help by firmly supporting baby’s bottom to keep him from falling.
Sometimes babies are born prematurely or with a health issue; it may not be possible to do skin to skin snuggling immediately. Don’t despair. The benefits continue through baby’s early weeks. Start skin to skin snuggling as soon as you are able. You and your baby will love it!
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of skin to skin, Nils Bergman explains it beautifully in this video.
Want to learn more about feeding your newborn? Take our online video course, Simply Breastfeeding.
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
- Download their FREE ebook: 5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding.
- Download their FREE video course Getting Ready to Breastfeed.