Bonding With Baby: Why Skin to Skin is Important

Young mother half laying on bed, supported by pillows, holding a newborn baby skin-to-skin on her stomach, learning to breastfeed with baby-led attachment. Biological nurturing

Skin-to-skin contact is a practice where a newborn baby fresh out of the bun is dried and laid directly on their mother’s bare chest after birth. Another common name for it is kangaroo care, and it is one of the most effective methods for promoting exclusive breastfeeding. Depending on what hospital you are in and their policies, the nurse will place your baby on your bare chest, and then both of you would be covered with a blanket while your doctor proceeds to stitch up your perineum. However, the benefits are not only limited to mums who have delivered vaginally. It is especially beneficial for caesarean mothers who’s breastmilk tend to kick in a little later compared to mums with normal deliveries, and vital for premature babies. 

What to Expect? 

Ideally, skin-to-skin care should start immediately after birth or shortly after birth for at least an hour or until after the first feed. But remember the nurses also have to check your baby’s vitals and APGAR score to make sure all is well. 

This gives you some time to gather yourself after all that pushing, and let reality sink in. The nurses will dry your baby, proceed with the necessary checks before placing him or her on your bare chest. Your baby’s face should be easily visible and uncovered, with his or her neck straight and knees bent. Your baby might be naked or diapered.

The birth itself marks a significant change for the two of you. Although more so for your precious one who’s just left the comforts of the womb. Which is why skin-to-skin is so essential because as your baby lies on your chest, this would help him or her to regulate body temperature and to calm down from the traumatic birth. Your body will also instinctively release hormones which will help you bond when in contact with your baby. 

Depending on how much time you are given in the delivery room, your baby might start to seek out for your nipple to engage in his or her first feed. Likely, you will still be in a semi-reclined position when doing skin to skin post-delivery so be careful that your baby doesn’t roll off your chest. 

It will take your baby some time to find your breast by doing the breast crawl before trying to latch on. Your baby’s sucking will send signals to your body to release colostrum which has high concentrations of nutrients and antibodies. Although colostrum tends to kick in a little later for first-time mums (approximately in 72 hours), then all the more reason for you to start establishing breastfeeding immediately after your baby is born. 

Skin-to-Skin: Benefits for Baby 

  • Stabilises baby’s body temperature
  • Regulates baby’s breathing and heartbeat
  • Calms baby down and helps them feel safe
  • Enhance their vitals 
  • Helps them to better adapt to life outside the mother’s womb. 
  • Helps to establish early breastfeeding as it stimulates digestion and interest in feeding
  • Keeps mother and baby together
  • Promotes bonding between mother and baby
  • Build up immunity from the mother’s good bacteria
  • Helps regulate baby’s breathing and heart rate
  • Help keep baby’s blood sugar level stable
  • Lower mortality rate and shorter hospital stay

Skin-to-Skin: Benefits to Mum

  • Easier lactation
  • Faster milk production with baby stimulates your body by sucking your nipple
  • Enhances mum’s maternal behaviours which helps mums bond with their baby
  • Reduces postpartum haemorrhage in mums
  • Can reduce maternal stress and postpartum depression.
  • Mums can learn to read baby hunger signs like rooting, lip-smacking and head-turning when they are looking for the breast.

Can Dads do Skin-to-skin Too?

Most certainly! And don’t discount what great things skin-to-skin can do for dads as well. When dads hold their newborn baby skin-to-skin on their chest, it increases oxytocin production, a natural “feel good” hormone in the body which causes dads to relax. 

It also triggers affection and nurturing behaviours in them which help dads to further bond with their baby. As a result, dad will become more attuned to their newborn’s needs and feel more confident about his parenting skills. 

Besides dads have the same ability as mums in helping to regulate their baby’s temperature and heartbeat. Hence, it is not uncommon to see dads playing their parts by practising skin-to-skin with their premies in neonatal ICUs. 

There’s no denying that skin-to-skin is important and plays an important role in your baby’s development. Not only is it beneficial for your baby, but it also benefits both parents as well. If you have prior experience doing skin-to-skin and reaped the benefits, do share your experience so that other parents can learn from it too!

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