When it comes to a new baby, whether you have previous children or not, many people have the same fears. Nurturing another human being whose life depends on you is a big deal, and regardless of how much preparation you attempt, you will always feel a little bit of fear in your capabilities. We have so much information at our fingertips to help us prepare for any situation in life, but the problem with the information we are given is that it is often conflicting with other information. One practice that has been gaining popularity over the past several years is skin-to-skin contact between newborns and their parents and it’s gaining popularity for good reason. Skin-to-skin contact is when a baby or newborn is held naked against their mom or dad’s skin mimicking the experience and security that they had in their mom’s womb. This is something that is vital directly after birth when possible and the need and benefits continue far beyond the hospital.
There are many benefits with skin-to-skin contact including improvement in heart and lung function, stabilization of body temperature, regulation of blood sugar, initiation of breastfeeding, transfer of good bacteria, reduction in crying, relief from pain, enhancement of parent-baby communication, easy transition from the womb, and boost in maternal/paternal bonding. While all these benefits are amazing, lets dive into a few.
Improvement in heart and lung function: The transition from the womb to the world is traumatic to a baby that has been living in the comfort and protection of their mom. This transition can be difficult and hard to adapt to, however when newborns experience skin-to-skin contact soon after birth they are more likely to adapt quicker.
Stabilization of body temperature: When newborns enter the world, they lack the ability to regulate their body temperature well. Studies show that skin-to-skin contact with their mother/father is more effective than the artificial warmers that they are placed in at the hospital, with the mother’s temperature being slightly higher than the dads.
Enhancement of mom-baby communication: Right after a baby is born is a crucial time when parents begin to learn about their baby’s behavior, whether it be signs of huger or signs of discomfort. Making sure the mother and baby have their skin-to-skin contact not only helps the mother to learn their baby’s behavior early on, but also gives her maternal confidence and gives the baby a sense of trust and security.
Paternal bonding: When a newborn has skin-to-skin contact with their dad on their first day in the world, it not only helps start the bond between baby and dad, but it also does something amazing to dad. When dad gets that one-on-one skin-to-skin contact with their newborn, it releases dopamine, and oxytocin in the dad’s brain. This will leave a positive association in a nervous dad’s brain and build a close bond between them, something many new dads struggle with since they don’t have the natural hormonal influx that happens in mom before, during, and after delivery.
It is important to note that while skin-to-skin is vital in the first few hours and really the first full day of a newborn’s life, it is beneficial to continue skin-to-skin long after. There is nothing wrong with families that may not participate in skin-to-skin contact with their babies, but studies show that the benefits of skin-to-skin contact between parents and babies are far too great to overlook.