Establishing skin-to-skin contact with your baby can be one of the most beautiful experiences for you as parents and the baby after childbirth. Skin-to-skin contact implies holding the baby naked against the mother’s or father’s bare chest. It has been known to reap multiple benefits for parents and babies. How is it that something so simple can have any positive effects? Many health organizations have been convinced by the data provided by numerous studies that have concluded that maintaining skin-to-skin contact with the baby is incredibly beneficial for the infant’s growth. The practice of skin-to-skin contact is also called kangaroo care. It has been associated with improving mental development, baby weight, ease of breastfeeding, and more. This article will explore a few of these benefits.
Healthier heart and lung function
A mother’s body helps the baby stay warm. During pregnancy, the mother’s regulation of body temperature in hot and cold weather has an impact on the baby. After birth, babies take time to gain that stability and cannot adjust their body temperature.
Increased mental development
Studies have proven that babies who received kangaroo care have better brain function at the age of 15 (when they became adolescents) than those kept in an incubator. The stability in heart rate, respiration and better sleep is known to impact the baby's brain development directly.
Skin-to-skin contact dramatically increases weight gain in newborns. The warmth from the parents’ bodies serves as energy to help them put on weight. Moreover, with easy breastfeeding, weight gain tends to happen faster too.
Studies show that babies who help with skin-to-skin contact are prone to cry less than those separated from their mothers. Some refer to the child’s cry as a separation distress call and a sign for calling the mother back to the baby. It is understandable that the baby feels a lower urge to cry when close to its mother because of the sense of safety and security that comes with the mother’s physical contact.
Regulation of lactation
The hormones help the regulation of lactation in the mother. As a result, she produces more milk and can breastfeed successfully.
Ease in breastfeeding
A video made by UNICEF shows a newborn baby making his way towards the mother’s breast and holding on immediately after birth. UNICEF further explained that every newborn could search the mother’s breast all on their own and decide when to first breastfeed. Newborns are instinctive and have a heightened sense of smell and touch. Mothers practicing skin-to-skin contact are more likely to start breastfeeding earlier than mothers who did not.
Reduced stress and blood pressure
Holding the baby skin-to-skin causes the blood pressure and stress levels to lower. Feeling the baby against her skin has a relaxing effect on the mother as much as on the baby. This is caused by the increase in oxytocin, which also restores pre-pregnancy hormone levels, reducing the possibility of post-partum depression.
Better communication with the child
The time after a baby’s birth provides an opportunity to learn from the baby’s behaviour, recognize its needs, and understand signs of hunger, discomfort on account of heat or cold, and signs of fullness. Kangaroo care helps establish this understanding quickly and improves communication with the baby. Babies, too, develop a sense of security which increases the confidence of the mother and father.
Many benefits for mothers accrue to fathers as well when it comes to skin-to-skin contact. Establishing better communication and using it as a means for paternal bonding with the child, reduced stress levels etc., are common advantages of both parents. However, for a father, the additional benefit is that holding the baby against the chest can establish an emotion of closeness and intimacy with the baby, something that mothers are inherently known to possess since they are life-givers. A father holding the baby close to their chest is an opportunity for them to feel the baby's pure emotions, create a better understanding of the baby’s signals, and support the mother after childbirth. Therefore, a strong and hands-on father is a huge support to the baby’s mother, as taking care of the child is a shared responsibility.
About Shishuka Children’s Specialty Hospital
Our paediatric services are unparalleled, and we would love to be a part of this most special journey of your life! We at Shishuka offer an environment where the baby and mother can both grow in the days immediately after childbirth. Our aim of creating a happy atmosphere and the holistic care provided to mothers and babies is what makes the transition easier for both.